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Thai legislature supports referendum on new charter

The National Legislative Assembly stated its support last week for a limited referendum on the new draft constitution, a key element in the government’s roadmap to rebuild a more sustainable democracy.
 
National Legislative Assembly (NLA) members said that the public should be given a chance to vote on specific articles in the draft charter that create different political structures than previously employed, but that there was no need to vote on other elements that were consistent with or similar to previous constitutions. Consequently, the NLA is not throwing its support behind those who prefer a straight ‘up-and-down’ vote on whether to approve the whole charter.
 
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has voiced support for a referendum on more than one occasion. Several civil society activists and newspaper editorial boards have also called for a referendum as a means of ensuring the charter’s legitimacy.
 
The only Thai constitution ever submitted to the public for a referendum was the 2007 constitution. The 1997 constitution, often referred to as “the people’s charter,” was never put to a national vote. However, because its drafters were elected, and public hearings on it held, its legitimacy was never questioned.
 
“So far, people from many provinces would like to see a referendum on the new charter," said Peerasak Porchit, deputy president of the NLA. "A public referendum should not be focused on whether to adopt or reject the whole constitution, as it may prevent good elements [from being implemented]. However, voting on articles that are crucial would not be too difficult for the general public to understand."
 
NLA members have voiced reservations and criticisms about the political structure proposed in the draft charter. Several new measures and structures are regarded as controversial, such as the complex process of filling senate seats.
 
According to the draft, voters in all 77 provinces would cast a ballot for “selected candidates,” with 15 senators nominated by professional associations and 20 coming from high-ranking government officials, 30 would be “experts” in their fields and 58 would come from a selection process.
 
The NLA would like to see more constituency members of parliament (MPs). The current draft has reduced their number to 250 from 400. Locals tend to have a closer relationship to the MPs that they directly elect from their constituency, as opposed to “party list” MPs chosen by the party leader.
 
The NLA also wants the conditions under which an unelected prime minister could be chosen to be spelled out more clearly and in more detail.
 
See the original article at Thailand Focus

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