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'Senators should vote on parties’ lists of candidates to be PM'

Aug 23. 2016
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THE JUNTA and the Cabinet have suggested that the 250 handpicked senators should be allowed to join the 500 MPs to select a PM candidate from the list of nominees submitted by political parties, PM Prayut Chan-o-cha said yesterday.
In order to win the PM’s post, the candidate will require a majority backing, or 376 votes in Parliament, Prayut said. 
If the two Houses are unable to choose a premier from the list of party nominees, then they will be allowed to select one from a list of outsiders, the premier added. However, those allowed to nominate a candidate to be PM in the second round would depend on charter drafters, he said. 
“For me, a premier can come from anywhere as long as he is a ‘good man’ and can join the government with dignity,” Prayut said. 
His remarks came after the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) and the Cabinet came to a resolution in relation to the additional question that was accepted in the public referendum. The controversial question asked if the two Houses should consider naming the premier in the first five years of their first sitting. 
The Constitution Drafting Commission (CDC) now needs to amend the draft charter in order to accommodate the additional question. Besides, the Senate’s role in selecting the premier has become controversial after the public accepted the additional question. 
Some members of the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) proposed that the Upper House be allowed to nominate a PM candidate apart from voting for one from the three-candidates proposed by each party. The draft charter stipulates that all political parties put forward three nominees before the election. These nominees would become eligible for the premier’s post once their party wins a seat in the election. 
However, some people disagree, saying that this goes beyond what voters approved in the referendum. NLA member Jate Siratharanont said yesterday that the Parliament, which includes the Senate, should be able to nominate a PM candidate if the MPs rejected party nominees in the first round. 
Meanwhile, Prayut disagreed with NLA’s idea of allowing the Senate to both nominate and approve a PM candidate, which was proposed by the two bodies he leads. He said he would also have the governments’ legal team notify the CDC of these points. 
“This additional question is necessary to solve political gaps caused by [the 2007 Constitution’s] Article 7,” Prayut stressed, referring to the now-defunct article which stipulates that any legal issues that go beyond legislation shall be considered by the constitutional monarchy. 
This article has been cited by political groups as a legitimate means to seek a royally named premier in case there is a political deadlock. 
Prayut had hinted earlier that the monarchy should not be “disturbed” via such an article. 
“I insist that these fixes have nothing to do with the maintenance of power. Please stop these [rumours] at once,” he said. 
Meanwhile, Jatuporn Promphan, a key leader of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship, called on all political parties to sign a pact to not support an outsider or non-elected premier. He explained that this was the only way the issue of PM nomination could be resolved. 
The red-shirt leader also dismissed ongoing debate about the Senate’s role in selecting a prime minister, saying that either way it was meaningless and did not guarantee that an outsider would not take on the job of the country’s leader. 
“Don’t be misled by this debate and don’t pay attention to who will nominate a premier and when. Be afraid when political parties pretend that they have no other option but to side with an outsider prime minister,” he said, adding that in order to avoid this, parties need to announce now that they oppose an outsider PM. 
NLA member Thani Onla-iad said the Senate should help MPs select a prime minister from parties’ proposed candidates, and if a candidate cannot be named for the top job, then the Senate should be allowed to nominate an outsider in the second round. 
Separately, Prayut suggested that the interim charter’s Article 6 should be amended to expand the number of NLA members from 220 to 250 in order to accelerate the drafting process of more than 50 laws in the draft charter. They only needed to stay until the general election, he said. 
“We need more [NLA] members because some of them have gone or resigned. I insist that this has nothing to do with their influence over the draft charter [process],” he added. General Prawit Wongsuwan, deputy prime minister and a key member of the NCPO, yesterday insisted that the NLA did not have a say in the interpretation of the additional question. He added that his question only comes under the jurisdiction of the CDC. 
He also dismissed the NLA’s move to give the Senate the right to nominate a PM candidate, stressing that it was the CDC’s job, which will finally be decided by the Constitutional Court. The controversial extra question can be taken literally and does not need a new interpretation, he added. 

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