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Charter debates heat up; drafter says elections certain in 2016

Sharp disagreements emerged last week between members of the National Reform Council and the Constitution Drafting Committee about several elements in the charter being drafted by the Committee.  The head of the charter Committee said, meanwhile, that elections would surely take place in 2016. 
 
The debate and disagreements over the content of the draft charter by two government-appointed bodies present a contrast to allegations by critics that military leaders and their conservative allies have predetermined the shape and direction of a new political system for the country, and that their goal is to reduce democracy.
 
Ironing out the differences is crucial, however, to producing and passing a charter acceptable to the Thai people in a timely manner so that elections can be held in the first quarter of 2016, which is the stated goal of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha.
The chairman of the Constitution Drafting Committee, Borwornsak Uwanno, told reporters after returning from an exploratory trip to Germany last week that an election will definitely be held in 2016, although he did not specify at what point during the year.
 
Members of a National Reform Council (NRC) panel scrutinizing the draft charter said they disagreed with several of its provisions, and in particular the German-style electoral system that increases the number of “party list” members of parliament, resulting in fewer lawmakers who will be directly elected by constituents.  Party list members of parliament are appointed by political party leaders, and their numbers are based on the percentage of votes that each party won.
 
Former members of parliament have also criticized the German-style system.  They said that with fewer directly elected lawmakers, election districts will have to be increased in size to the point that representatives will find it difficult to meet and adequately serve the interests of all their constituents.
 
Members of the NRC panel also voiced disapproval of an article that allows for an unelected person to be named Prime Minister during times of crisis.  Several other provisions raised concerns among panel members, who also stressed that there was no partisanship in their criticisms.
 
“We are not fighting with each another.  We want the best for the country and to make this new constitution most suitable for the country,” said Wanchai Sornsiri, a spokesman for the NRC panel.
 
Other panel members questioned whether the German model was appropriate for Thailand considering the different conditions in each country.
 
“The German Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) electoral system is very interesting, especially in that political sides can select presidents of the Supreme Court and the Constitution Court.  German politicians are honorable and trusted by the people,” said Sombat Wongsawat, an NRC member.
 
According to the most recent Global Competitiveness Report from the World Economic Forum, the Thai people’s trust in politicians is among the lowest in the world.
 
“The difference between Thailand and Germany is the fact that Thailand still has a high corruption rate.  If Thailand uses the MMP election system, the party-list system will have no connection with the people,’’ Sombat said.
 
See the original article at Thailand e-newsletter

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