Appointed Senate 'could topple government'

Appointed Senate 'could topple government'

ANALYSIS: Fears are growing the Upper House may wield more power than first thought

Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon, seen here chairing a meeting on countering human trafficking, is getting credit for a new plan by the junta on how to retain some control of an elected parliament through a powerful, appointed senate. (Photo by Thanarak Khunton)
Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon, seen here chairing a meeting on countering human trafficking, is getting credit for a new plan by the junta on how to retain some control of an elected parliament through a powerful, appointed senate. (Photo by Thanarak Khunton)

The controversial proposal for a fully appointed Senate during the transitional post-election period could weaken an elected government and make national reform an excuse to bring it down, according to a highly-placed source with the National Legislative Assembly (NLA). 

The proposal is the brainchild of Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon, who said there was nothing wrong with members of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) serving as "transitional" appointed senators.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has also welcomed the idea, saying a chamber of appointed senators is needed to ensure the continuity and success of his government's national reforms during the transitional post-election period.

This gave rise to speculation that NCPO members would be appointed to sit in the Upper House to counterbalance elected MPs, provided the charter writing body agrees to include the proposal in a provisional clause.

The proposal also suggests the appointed senators be given more power such as proposing legislation, and impeaching political office-holders.

Critics slammed the idea, saying it is a way to keep an elected government under military control. The Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) has not yet made a decision whether to include the appointed Senate in the draft charter, to be wrapped up and presented to the government at the end of the month. 

However, the highly-placed source said if the CDC accepts the proposal, all 200 senators are expected to be appointed by the current government. They would be given the same power as elected MPs to propose legislation and keep an elected government in check.

Most importantly, the appointed senators would likely have the power to vote in a censure motion against an elected government. This means the elected government could be brought down easily if it fails to follow through with reforms initiated by the military government, the source said.

The appointed Senate could be given unprecedented broad powers under the new constitution, the source said.

The source also said the appointed Senate would likely comprise at least five members of the NCPO, while the rest would come from members of the NLA, which is already made up of more than 100 soldiers.

While the proposal to have an appointed Senate demonstrates the NCPO is driving a hard bargain for power, the military regime is ready to compromise, the source said.

Meanwhile, the NLA yesterday approved proposed changes to the interim charter relating to the rules of the referendum.

The changes proposed by the cabinet and the NCPO were passed by a vote of 192-0, with three abstentions.

One key change involves using a majority of voters who turn out for this year's referendum, rather than all those who are eligible, to determine whether the constitution is a success or failure.

Another change approved is that the NLA will be allowed to propose an additional question yet to be determined to be included in the draft charter.


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