Drafters agree to a selected senate but some say it may not fully control parliament over 5 year transition.
POLITICAL observers are still in doubt about relations between the junta and charter writers led by Meechai Ruchupan – whether they are at loggerheads over a special mechanism to maintain peace and order during a five-year transitional period.
On the surface, it looks as if the Constitution Drafting Commission (CDC) tried to compromise with the four other so-called “rivers of power” by agreeing to some but not all of proposed suggestions on the draft’s provisional clause.
But after looking at the details, in fact, it appears the junta in the end got almost everything that it wanted.
As independent scholar Sirote Klampaiboon concluded, the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) and its supporters gain major advantages in this draft constitution.
Looking at the bigger picture, and not just at the three recent proposals, it appeared the current regime stood a high chance of retaining power and securing peace and order during the so-called transitional period, Sirote said.
He viewed the controversial proposal as a distraction that would make the charter draft more appealing.
“When compared to what the NCPO asked for, surely the constitution draft looks heavenly. Now people will feel very positive about the charter when actually all the little pieces put together are still very advantageous for the NCPO,” he said.
Satitorn Tananitichote, a scholar from King Prajadhipok's Institute, said he believed the NCPO’s preferences for the draft had been fulfilled, because 200 senators would be selected.
He said the 200 would be sufficient to give the Senate a powerful voice in parliamentary matters. There are key decisions that both Houses would have to make jointly, such as the endorsement of the successor to the throne and the determination of whether a situation constitutes a crisis before the so-called Article 7, which confers special powers in the event of crisis, can be applied, Satitorn explained.
The 250-member Senate, dominated by the 200 selected senators, would have a crucial role in the Parliament, he said.
Asked about the CDC’s rejection of the proposal that the Senate should be able to submit censure motions, Satitorn said the drafters were well aware that an unelected Senate should not have that authority. If they had adopted that, questions would have followed, he said.
In regard to the proposal to dispense with the parties’ list of three candidates for the premiership, the CDC rejected the junta’s idea but left the door open for a person who is not connected to the political parties to become prime minister, observers said.
The CDC just made that eventuality more difficult by maintaining the three-candidate lists as was originally drafted, but adding that a list could be suspended if both parliamentary chambers could muster a two-thirds vote.
However, some observers believe the additional clauses in the provisional section that the CDC added at the NCPO’s request might prove to be too weak for the junta to control the political situation after the election.
This camp believes the most important question is how the junta will be able to prolong its power for at least five years after the election by using the Senate as a powerful weapon.
The proposal to empower the Senate during the transitional period would have given it a major role to overthrow or protect the next government in the case of a no-confidence motion, an observer said.
If the next government were an ally of the junta, it would have had at least 200 appointed senators supporting it during a censure debate.
But, if the next government were led by Pheu Thai Party, for example, the 200 senators would have been in opposition and could have merged with MPs from opposition parties to form a grand opposition coalition to oust a Pheu Thai-led government.
Sukhum Nualsakul, a former rector of Ramkhamhaeng University, agreed with this analysis, saying that the essential authority was whether the Senate could table a no-confidence vote. The powers-that-be needed that power to have full control in the transition period, he said.
A Senate that could raise a motion of no confidence would be very powerful and have a role in dictating the fate of the prime minister and the Cabinet.
However, the CDC had not granted that authority, so really the NCPO did not get what it needed, he said.
If Sukhum is right, the charter draft might be rejected by any means available so that the junta can replace it with its own draft to retain power and control in the next government, at least for the five-year transition.