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NCPO proposes major change to key political structure in transition

Mar 15. 2016
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THE NATIONAL Council for Peace and Order has proposed drastic changes to the political structure in the charter draft for the five-year transitional period, including paving the way for an outsider prime minister, it was revealed in the Cabinet meeting ye
Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha, meanwhile, said during his weekly press briefing after the Cabinet meeting that if the constitution draft did not pass the referendum, the charter-writing process would start anew.
The proposals, which partly included the resolution of the four powers’ joint meeting last week and was already submitted to the Constitution Drafting Commission (CDC) on Monday, touched upon three key political elements including the controversial selected Senate, and the possibility of a non-MP future prime minister in the post-election government.
Government Spokesman Maj Gen Sansern Kaewkamnerd yesterday said Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam had presented the proposal at the Cabinet meeting.
The proposal included that Parliament, during the five-year transitional period, comprise 250 selected senators, six of whom will be the permanent secretary of the Defence Ministry, the chief commanders of the three Armed Forces, the overall chief commander, and the police chief commander.
Sansern explained that the four powers wanted to prevent any possible dead-ends, and any “foul play” by the elected members of the House of Representatives such as proposing an amnesty bill. “The Senate, however, will not have the authority to choose a prime minister. They will only be the guardians of the constitution,” he said, adding that other responsibilities of the senators included passing bills and carrying out the 20-year national strategy plan.
Besides, the four powers also resolved that the two-ballot electoral system be adopted for citizens to vote for both the constituency and the party-list candidates in the next election. This way, smaller parties stand a better chance of competing against the big ones. They also recommended that a list naming three PM candidates not be used in the first election. Sansern said they were concerned that parties would not finalise whom they wanted as the prime minister.
However, Sansern said they had not yet reached any conclusions on whether the top government job would be taken by a non-MP.
Prayut said that if the constitution draft did not pass the planned referendum, the writing process would restart.
“If it fails to pass a referendum or if it is not good, then we can rewrite it,” said Prayut. “I have the power. I have the power to keep peace – not that I will abuse it.”
Prayut reiterated the need to have a selected Senate during the five-year transitional period. A Cabinet source said the premier agreed that NCPO members should not be selected as senators. 
Prayut rejected speculation that the NCPO was pressuring the CDC.
“Please do not say that the CDC is being stubborn [for not joining the meeting]. I did not invite them because they’re writing the constitution. And it is right that the proposal comes from the other four powers” excluding the CDC, he said, re-emphasising that he was not pressuring the drafters and believed they would write the constitution in accordance with the proposal.
Asked why another proposal had been sent to the CDC in addition to the Cabinet’s 16 points, which included the controversial exemption period for some rules, Prayut said he could submit a proposal as many times as he wanted. 
“If they do not include those in the constitution, I will keep sending proposals until they do so, because this is my responsibility,” he said. In response to a question on how such a proposal would benefit the country, he said he wanted the country to be peaceful with no more conflicts, explaining that the selected Senate could weigh against the elected Lower House in the future Parliament.
“In the past, the Senate passed everything motioned by the Lower House. We need someone to counter that. And they [selected senators] will not have the authority to impeach anyone. What could possibly be wrong with that?” the PM said.
He maintained that the junta was not trying to cling to power, as an election would be allowed next year, while the military had allowed the constitution draft to be written, and the planned referendum to approve it.
Meanwhile, CDC chief Meechai Ruchupan said he understood Prayut’s remark that he would keep sending proposals until the drafters heeded them. 
“It is like asking a girl for a date. If she does not say yes, you keep asking,” he said. “However, the CDC will consider the rationality of the proposal … There was no pressure that we have to follow everything the PM said. We will include everything crucial for the country to move forward.” 
However, Prayut later sent Sansern to clear the air with Meechai after the premier’s remark.

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