Pheu Thai vows Monday boycott to kill ‘unconstitutional’ election bill
The main opposition Pheu Thai party has vowed to boycott Parliament on Monday in a bid to kill a draft bill that would change the party-list MP calculation method.
Pheu Thai spokeswoman Theerarat Samretwanich told a press conference on Sunday that her party’s MPs would not join the meeting to vote on the bill, which it deems unconstitutional.
House Speaker and Parliament President Chuan Leekpai called a special meeting of MPs and senators on Monday to try to save the election bill.
Last Wednesday’s vote on the bill’s second reading collapsed after the meeting failed to reach a quorum, raising concerns that it would not be approved by Parliament before the 180-day deadline, which falls on Monday.
The bill is required to effect an amendment of the Constitution that changes the single-ballot system to a dual-ballot election system – one vote for constituency MPs and another for party-list MPs.
The bone of contention in the bill concerns the method used to calculate the number of party-list MPs. The original draft proposed dividing the party-list votes by 100, but an ad hoc House-Senate committee then changed that figure to 500. The “500” calculation method would favour smaller parties at the expense of larger parties.
Pheu Thai sees the change as a move designed to prevent it from winning a landslide victory in the next general election, which must be called by March at the latest.
Pheu Thai MPs staged a walkout on Wednesday to derail the bill’s passage.
Theerarat noted that the amended Article 91 of the charter states that “the number of party-list MPs of each political party must be allocated in proportion to the overall number of party-list votes. “As a result, the number of party-list seats must be divided by 100,” the spokeswoman said.
“Pheu Thai MPs unanimously agree that they will not allow themselves to be part of the quorum for the meeting on August 15,” Theerarat said.
However, if government coalition MPs and senators manage to form a quorum for Wednesday’s session, Pheu Thai MPs would return to the meeting to debate against the new version, Theerarat said.
She said Pheu Thai MPs would turn out in full force to debate against the use of 500 as the divider and would then stage a walkout.
“Pheu Thai affirms that it won’t join the assembly to enact a bill that could violate the charter,” Theerarat said.
She argued that boycotts were allowed by the Constitution to prevent a distorted bill from clearing Parliament. “This is our duty as representatives of the people,” she added.
Speaking at the same press conference, Noppadon Pattama, deputy chairman of Pheu Thai’s strategy committee, said using 500 as the divider would clearly violate the charter’s amended Article 91.
He said the coalition was focused on who would stand to gain from the 100-divider method instead of acknowledging that the 500-divider would violate the charter.
“Our direction is clear: Pheu Thai will not support the 500-divider formula, because it violates the charter,” he insisted.
If the bill fails to pass on Monday, it will revert to the original version featuring the 100 method before being sent to the prime minister for enactment after royal approval.