Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Volunteer army on the march as referendum countdown begins

Jun 01. 2016
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By Attayuth Bootsripoom
The Nati

The referendum on the draft constitution is a little over two months away. On August 7, voters will have to answer two questions

Certainly, the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) wants the voters to say yes to both questions. For the NCPO, passage of the draft charter would mean a new political landscape in keeping with their road map for a return to civilian rule with fresh elections. In turn, pressure from the international community would be relieved.

Voters’ approval for the additional question would also ensure that all the 250 senators picked by the NCPO had the power to select the next prime minister for another five years. The handpicked senators would, in effect, serve as the country’s largest political party since no party would be able to win a majority in the lower house under the new electoral system.

With majority support for both referendum questions, the NCPO would secure a strong grip on the post-election government.

That explains why every state mechanism is now actively pushing for passage of the draft charter and extra senatorial power.

The National Legislative Assembly (NLA) and the National Reform Steering Assembly (NRSA) have deployed their people around the country to help with campaigning in the run-up to the referendum.

Over 400,000 state-trained volunteers will take part in the campaign, which authorities claim will help voters “better understand” the content of the draft constitution.

It will interesting to see what kind of “message” the army of volunteers transmit during their door-to-door visits. One thing is certain: They will extol the benefits of the draft charter. The volunteers in the provinces are, after all, taking their cue from members of the CDC.

Volunteers at the provincial level have been tasked with taking information from the drafters and using it to train volunteers at district and village levels. The NLA and NRSA are also relying on the volunteers to inform voters about the additional query regarding increased senatorial power.

The volunteers include state officials, local administrators and military officers. As such they are unlikely to spread any message or information that is unfavourable to the government.

Critics have voiced suspicion that the state-trained volunteers will also impart a “hidden message” in a bid to effect a referendum result desired by those in power.

Meanwhile, those opposed to the draft charter and extra senatorial power have been stifled by the referendum law. Clauses in that legislation effectively prevent campaigning for a “no” vote and are aimed, say critics, at silencing anyone opposed to the draft.

As a result, the government appears to have taken total control of the run-up to the nationwide vote. And even if that tight grip fails to squeeze a “yes” vote, those in power will no doubt still have a trump card up their sleeves – and more time at the table to play it.


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