Wissanu: Don't expect fully democratic charter

Wissanu: Don't expect fully democratic charter

The government's legal expert has defended the first draft of the constitution, saying no charter in the world is fully democratic.

The Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) introduced the first draft on Friday, saying it was open to suggestions.

The next step is for the cabinet and the key bodies set up by the junta to submit proposed changes to the draft so that the CDC could consider revising and completing it by the March 29 deadline.

For the cabinet, Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said on Saturday the draft would likely be discussed on Tuesday.

Even before it was unveiled, the draft was criticised for giving massive power to the Constitutional Court.

On this, Mr Wissanu said the power was not vested in not only the Constitutional Court but also other independent organisations — the National Anti-Corruption Commission, the Election Commission, the National Human Rights Commission and ombudsmen.

"This is to ensure we'll no longer need a superbody, the like of the National Strategic Committee for Reform and Reconciliation," he said.

Such "superbody" was a much criticised element proposed by the charter drafted by Borwornsak Uwanno last year, allegedly to break political deadlocks. They were supposed to have the power to overrule the government and other bodies and to push reform agenda during peacetime even when the government does not agree with them.

It was believed to be a major reason leading to the demise of Mr Borwornsak's draft.

"But in this version, I haven't found excessive empowerment of these independent organisations. The Constitutional Court will deliberate cases based on the laws and intent. Failing that, it can use ruling traditions ... The court cannot intervene with the government," said Mr Wissanu.

Another contentious issue that a provision that allows the National Council for Peace and Order to use Section 44 of the 2014 interim charter until the new government is sworn in even after the new constitution is in effect.

On this, Mr Wissanu said so far Section 44 had been used constructively and could solve problems that other laws could not. "I'm convinced Section 44 would be used even more cautiously because other laws that protect [Section 44's] user are no longer there."

On the concern the law would affect election campaigns, Mr Wissanu asked: "Why don't you think Section 44 will help make the election more free and fair? Today there's a possibility the polls might not be smooth because some laws may not be passed in time. Section 44 can help with that."

In any case, anything established by the new charter cannot be overridden or scrapped by Section 44, Mr Wissanu said. "For example, Section 44 can't make election fraud disappear. It will simply speed up law passage."

Asked whether the new charter will be 100% democratic, Mr Wissanu said no constitutions in the world or Thai past charters were 100% democratic.

"So what do you expect from this one? In the past, the constitution dubbed half-democratic or half-full turned out to be the one in use for the longest time. The one we call the best — the charter after the Oct 14, 1973 massacre — was in force for only two years before it was scrapped.

"Even the first constitution after the rule of country was changed on Dec 10, 1932 was not democratic. Yet it was used for the longest time, for 14 years to 1946."

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