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Political scientists see possibility of post-poll PM selection process failing

Feb 21. 2018
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By Khanittha Theppajorn
The Nation

After a coup and a new Constitution written in an attempt to steer the country clear of its political impasse, political scientists still see the possibility of continued gridlock after the coming general election.

Political scientist Chaiyan Chaiyaporn said on Tuesday that the selection process for a prime minister could fail, leading to the dissolution of Parliament.

This is despite the fact that the 2016 Constitution sets out at least two routes to the selection of a prime minister – one within the political parties’ PM candidates lists, and the other an outsider PM.

Chaiyan pointed out that the charter did not say for how long Parliament could continue without a premier if he or she was not picked and, if it was taking too long, some MPs might finally yield to a parliamentary dissolution and resort to the controversial “traditional way of ruling”.

“But who could call for a dissolution? Could [current PM] General Prayut Chan-o-cha dissolve the elected Parliament?” he asked.

The political scientist played out a scenario in which Parliament proposed the candidate that won the most votes in the PM election process, but not a simple majority as required.

But that would mean the PM was from a minority, he said.

Such an impasse would then enable the traditional way of ruling, like that under Article 7 of the previous constitution – and now Article 5 of the new charter – to have a role, he added.

“But personally, I view that if we can respect the rules, we don’t need to call for the traditional way of ruling,” Chaiyan said.

His remarks were made during a seminar on Tuesday at King Prajadhipok’s Institute as part of the launch of his new book, which analyses the contentious former Article 7.

Nō̜ranit Sētthabut, a political scientist and member of the National Legislative Assembly, said at the same seminar that such a traditional way of ruling had been applied in the past and was not limited to an unelected PM’s appointment.

For instance, when Sanya Thammasak dissolved Parliament in 1973, the action was not endorsed by the prevailing charter but followed the traditional way of ruling, he pointed out.

“So, it is not limited to only royally appointing a prime minister. It could be interpreted widely,” he said.

“But the most important thing is that is must be a solution that is accepted, not a problem or lead to a cataclysm,” he stressed.

The present Constitution also has a similar clause, but it is uncertain who would exercise such extra-constitutional power, Noranit said, adding that personally he believed it could be the Constitutional Court because it had the responsibility to finalise matters concerning the charter.

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