Political parties get draft charter, but can't debate it

Political parties get draft charter, but can't debate it

National Reform Council chairman Thienchay Kiranandana and other NRC members receive copies of the first draft of the new constitution from the Constitution Drafting Committee at parliament April 7. Political parties got their chance to start reviewing it Monday. (Photo by Apichart Jinakul)
National Reform Council chairman Thienchay Kiranandana and other NRC members receive copies of the first draft of the new constitution from the Constitution Drafting Committee at parliament April 7. Political parties got their chance to start reviewing it Monday. (Photo by Apichart Jinakul)

The draft constitution went to political parties for review today, but with a catch: They are forbidden from meeting to debate the proposed charter.

The National Reform Council completed a week-long debate on the draft Sunday, before writers sent the text to the cabinet, the Naitonal Council for Peace and Order, and political parties for their feedback.

The charter, Thailand's 20th since 1932, was written by the 36-member Constitution Drafting Committee appointed by the NCPO.

But even though martial law has been lifted, political gatherings of five or more people still are prohibited, even if it means gathering to debate the future law of the land.

"If they really want views from political parties then the NCPO should lift or relax rules for parties to hold meetings," Chamni Sakdiset, deputy leader of the Democrat Party, told Reuters.

"The NCPO's order still is 'no meetings'," he said. "They would only get views from the party leader or party secretary-generals and not from all members of a party."

The Pheu Thai Party echoed its rival's call to lift the ban on meetings to discuss the charter.

"It would be a good thing to gather views from everyone in the party," Chavalit Vichayasut, acting deputy secretary-general of the party, said.

Gen Lertrat Rattanvanich, a spokesman for the CDC, said there was no need for parties to meet as they had been airing their opinions on the constitution in the media.

The drafters say they hope the charter would guard against "parliamentary dictatorship," but critics say it will weaken political parties and usher in a period of short-lived coalition governments.

The most controversial provisions allow for an unelected prime minister and establish a proportional representation electoral system.

The power of senators, two-thirds of whom would be appointed rather than elected, was another contentious issue, Alongkorn Polbutr, a member of the NRC, told Reuters on Monday.

The charter will be returned to drafters with feedback for possible revision on May 25. The text must be endorsed by HM the King by September if a general election promised for early 2016 is to take place.


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