By KASAMAKORN CHANWANPEN
THE National Legislative Assembly (NLA) yesterday suggested the Senate might both nominate candidates and vote to select the next prime minister but leave the Constitution Drafting Commission (CDC) to decide how they will amend the draft in line with an additional question approved in the referendum.
The suggestion was raised in a joint meeting between the NLA and CDC yesterday.
NLA member Somchai Sawangkarn said the additional question could be interpreted in a broad or narrow manner.
One interpretation would be that the Senate could nominate candidates then vote along with MPs to select the PM, Somchai said after the two-hour meeting. Another was that the Senate could only vote in the later process to decide who would be premier.
He added that the Constitutional Court would rule if the charter amendment was in line with the people’s intention as reflected through this month’s referendum.
In the referendum, a majority of voters approved the NLA’s additional question that the Senate should join the MPs in selecting a prime minister, prompting the charter amendment. But controversy arose because it was unclear if the additional question meant the Senate would also have a role in the nomination.
NLA member Jate Siratharanont, who met with the CDC yesterday, said that the NLA suggested also that the prominent clauses in the charter draft remain unchanged – that MPs nominate the candidates for prime minister and the joint Parliament vote on who will be PM in the final process.
But if the MPs failed to agree on a list of candidates and it was waived, it was still unclear whether or not the Senate should help nominate other candidates, Jate said. He added that the various agents involved still had to discuss the issue.
However, chief charter writer Meechai Ruchupan said before meeting that the charter amendment should follow what the people had agreed in the referendum.
Meechai refused to say whether the additional question could be interpreted in a broader manner, but hinted metaphorically that the Senate should not have a right to nominate a candidate for PM.
Asked if the drafters would consider other political factors, too, before revising the draft, Meechai said the CDC could not consider anything other than what the people had allowed in the referendum.
He said the amendment could be completed by the end of the month before being forwarded to the Constitutional Court for review.
Attasit Pankaew, a political scientist from Thammasat University, said if senators were allowed to nominate PM candidates from the beginning of the process, it would make an election meaningless.
He said elected MPs should at least be given responsibility for proposing a prime minister and the Senate should only vote in the final process.
However, he added that if the MP-proposed lists were waived, it was possible that the Senate could give recommendations about proposing other candidates.
Former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra yesterday voiced her opposition to allowing selected senators to nominate a non-MP as prime minister.
She said that would be against the will of voters who approved allowing senators to vote with MPs in the selection of prime minister for five years after the new Parliament convenes for the first time.
There has been an attempt to interpret the referendum result in a way that would allow senators to nominate the prime minister, she said.
“I hope all the sides concerned will not do anything that is against the intention of the people. They have to respect the people so that things will continue peacefully,” she said before attending a hearing of a Supreme Court case against her.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha still did not rule out possibility of him remaining as premier after next year’s general election if his name was proposed by Parliament.
“I’m not opening or closing my chance [to be next PM],” Prayut said yesterday. “I just want to take it step by step. I could be blamed if I announce anything in advance, so I prefer not to say.”
Prayut stressed that it was too still too early for any assumptions on the next PM as legal processes for the general election had just begun.
He also cited the same reason to retain the junta’s ban on political gatherings of more than four people that has barred political parties from conducting meetings.
“It’s still not a time for them to ‘dress up’ and join the election [process]. Writing on organic laws hasn’t even started,” he said. “How could they dress if they don’t know the theme? Rules need to be set before they can get ready. Why hurry? The general election is next year.”Meanwhile, CDC member, retired General Niwat Sriphen, took ill during the panel’s meeting yesterday.
Niwat, 61, reported having chest pains and difficulty in breathing. Parliament officials gave him oxygen and a doctor examined him at the scene, according to CDC deputy chairman Suphot Khaimuk.
Suphot said Niwat was later taken home to recover. The CDC gave him a white garland as moral support.