FRIDAY, February 23, 2024

Calls for house quorum checking just a political game: Wissanu

Calls for house quorum checking just a political game: Wissanu

Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam on Tuesday dubbed the opposition’s tactic of calling for quorum checking to disrupt House meetings a political game, although the tactic does not violate political ethics.

Wissanu added that the inability of MPs to continue with meetings without disruption deserved criticism, but not a penalty as a violation of parliamentary ethics.

The deputy prime minister, who is the legal expert of the government, was commenting on the latest call by the opposition for a quorum check on August 3 to disrupt a joint House-Senate meeting to deliberate on the MPs election bill.

On July 8, the opposition had used the tactic to disrupt a House meeting that was held to acknowledge the government’s report on the progress of national reforms as required by Section 270 of the Constitution.

By February this year, four House meetings had been disrupted by the quorum checking tactic of the opposition and on one occasion, the House abruptly postponed a meeting after the coalition whips considered the number of government MPs would not make a quorum.

From 2019 to 2021, House meetings were disrupted 12 times due to lack of quorum.

At present, there are 487 MPs so at least 244 MPs are required to be present to make the House quorum. The coalition commands 275 MPs while the opposition has 212 MPs.

In the tactic, the opposition would call for a quorum check and stage a walkout. If there are not enough coalition MPs present, the meeting would be forced to end.

“It’s not as serious as to be labelled an ethical violation, because this is a weapon parliamentarians use to oppose what they disagree with,” Wissanu said.

Calls for house quorum checking just a political game: Wissanu Regarding the dispute over the tenure of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, Wissanu said those who want to seek an interpretation from the Constitutional Court should submit their request to the Election Commission (EC).

Wissanu said if such a request was submitted to the Office of Ombudsman, the office would have to forward it to the EC anyway as the office does not have the authority to request a ruling on this issue.

On August 5, activist Srisuwan Janya filed a complaint with the ombudsman, asking its office to seek a Constitutional Court ruling on whether Prayut’s tenure should be regarded as expiring this month.

Wissanu said one-tenth of MPs or one-tenth of senators can also directly petition the Constitutional Court for such a ruling, but if the complaint is filed with the EC the election watchdog would screen it first so the complaint would have weight when it is forwarded to the court.

The opposition Pheu Thai Party has said it would petition the Constitutional Court by August 17 to seek a ruling on whether Prayut would reach his eight-year limit under the Constitution on August 24.

Section 158 of the 2017 Constitution stipulates that a politician can be the prime minister for no longer than eight years with or without intervals.

But a House of Representatives legal team argued that Prayut’s tenure technically started on June 9, 2019 when he was appointed the prime minister with a royal command under the 2017 charter. The House panel says Prayut’s term would expire in 2027.

According to another school of thought, which counts Prayut’s tenure since the enactment of the 2017 Constitution, his term is seen as expiring in 2025.

Wissanu said on Tuesday that if the Constitutional Court does not issue an order to tell Prayut to stop working as prime minister, he would be able to continue to attend to all tasks, including signing documents and reshuffling senior government officials and Cabinet members.

The opposition has threatened to file a complaint with police if Prayut continues to work as prime minister after August 24. Wissanu said such a complaint would have no effect as long as the court does not issue an order to bar Prayut from working.