Charter bill 'strips public of their rights'

Charter bill 'strips public of their rights'

Draft hands power to elite, says Pheu Thai

The Pheu Thai Party's secretary-general and two top legal advisers have criticised the draft charter, saying it shows no trust or respect for the people or their sovereignty. It also threatens to give too much power to a non-elected elite, they say.

Pheu Thai says the draft constitution is likely to cause trouble, echoing the concerns of the rival Democrat Party.

Pheu Thai's statement was compiled by acting secretary-general Phumtham Wechayachai and legal advisers Chusak Sirinil and Pongthep Thepkanchana.

The former ruling party's criticism of the charter focuses on three controversial areas: the parliamentary system; the new electoral system; and new principles laid down by the Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC).

The draft charter seeks to strip people of their sovereign powers, Pheu Thai claims, by scrapping the direct election of senators; allowing the appointment of a prime minister who is not affiliated with politics in the case of a political emergency; and destroying the checks and balances mechanism between the executive and legislature by requiring the dissolution of the House if the government loses a no-confidence vote.

The CDC has opted for the indirect election of senators who will be chosen by a handful of people, including former high-level politicians, bureaucrats and former heads of professional organisations.

The members of the 200-seat upper House will serve up to two six-year terms and are entrusted with the powers to propose laws, scrutinise state use of power, select members of independent agencies, impeach the prime minister and cabinet ministers and endorse cabinet members.

Pheu Thai claims that, because the Senate will not be directly elected by the people, it will have too much power — tantamount to stripping the people of their sovereignty and handing it over to a handful of people.

"If the prime minister can't appoint people to the cabinet because the Senate doesn't approve of them, it is likely this will lead to the government attempting to negotiate with groups of senators," the party said. 

Pheu Thai said the clause allowing the prime minister to not be affiliated with a political party will take the country back to the kind of political violence seen during the Black May of 1992.

This goes against the democratic system and undermines what the Thai public has fought for, the party said.

A requirement that the House of Representatives must be dissolved if the government loses a no-confidence vote will weaken the checks and balances mechanism.

"The legislature will never be able to examine the executive branch properly because it will hurt their parliamentary status. This requirement will lead to political negotiations, effectively putting an end to checks and balances, and leading to damage," the party said.

Pheu Thai warned that the new system for electing MPs — known as mixed member proportional representation (MMP) — will create an unstable government and an inefficient administration.

A government that comes from the MMP system will be weaker, the party said.

Pheu Thai alleges that a clause that allows MPs to not follow party resolutions will affect the government's performance and efforts to implement policies.

If MPs vote against a core policy, the policy cannot be adopted, it claims.

The party has slammed the CDC's proposal that appointments and reshuffles of state officials be carried out by a special body.

It claims there is no guarantee the body in question will be held to account if their appointments are improper.

"No government or executives can perform efficiently if they don't have the power to appoint and transfer people in key positions. The public administration will fail," the party said.

According to Pheu Thai, the CDC has also proposed measures that will make amendments to the charter impossible.

A vote to amend the charter requires endorsement from at least two-thirds of both chambers, and even if an amendment is passed by parliament, it is subject to review by the Constitution Court and will then need to be approved in a public referendum.

Pheu Thai also claimed the CDC's proposal to establish an assembly to push for reforms, which will comprise members of the National Legislative Assembly and the National Reform Council, is an attempt to prolong the coup-makers' hold on power.

Meanwhile, a King Prajadhipok's Institute survey has found about 59% of people want the prime minister to be the head of a political party and to come from elections and about 60% agree with the CDC's charter draft.

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