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CDC decision on Senate lauded but outsider PM still a possibility: analysts

Aug 26. 2016
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By Kasamakorn Chanwanpen,

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Political scientists agree with the drafters’ resolution to bar junta-picked Senate members from jointly selecting a future prime minister, but said such an exclusion would still not prevent an outsider from being appointed to the government’s top job.

Meanwhile, the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) is preparing documents to support the Senate’s eligibility to select a candidate for prime minister, in case it is required by the Constitutional Court.

Voters on August 7 voted to accept the NLA’s proposal that the joint Parliament, including the appointed Senate, would “join in considering” a prime minister.

The highly charged debate erupted as authorities and politicians could not agree to the extent of the Senate’s role in the process.

The Constitution Drafting Commission (CDC) on Wednesday decided that the Senate would only join the MPs in voting to select a PM, while elected MPs would nominate candidates for prime minister.

Sukhum Nualsakul, a political analyst and a former rector of Ramkhamhaeng University, said he agreed  with the CDC’s decision. But he said an outsider prime minister could still emerge as the constitution draft still allows a candidate to be nominated who is not on the lists proposed by political parties.

“Also, though the Senate could not propose an outsider, some parties like that of Paiboon [Nititawan’s] would do that,” Sukhum said. “It might be a little less convenient, but it does not make an outsider PM impossible.”

Attasit Pankaew, from Thammasat University, also said the CDC’s decision matched the principle of how things should be. However, it does not make the political situation worry free after the next election as there are still chances that an outsider would lead the government.

“We’ll have to see how the polarisation goes after the election. If minor and medium-sized parties join with the ‘Senate party’, then chances are that we’ll have an outsider [PM],” Attasit said.

“The problem follows that it might be hard for him or her to work with the Lower House if he or she does not get along well with the influential parties.”

The legislators and the drafters meanwhile tried to downplay the apparent disagreement, saying there were no hard feelings, although the Senate would not be eligible to nominate PM candidates as proposed.

Somchai Sawangkarn, an NLA member who advocated the Senate’s role in PM nominations, said he respected the CDC’s decision to exclude the Senate from PM nominations.

He said that an NLA panel would prepare the necessary documents related to the additional question, in case the Constitutional Court requested explanations.

He dismissed criticism that the NLA was “demanding a yard after receiving an inch”.

The legislator said that the CDC’s decision was in line with the people’s decision in the referendum that the joint Parliament should vote to select a prime minister, but the CDC and the NLA had not agreed on the nomination process.

The CDC’s chairman, Meechai Ruchupan, said similarly that the charter amendment would not ignite conflicts between CDC and the NLA. The two bodies had different views on the issue, which would eventually be settled by the Constitutional Court, he said.

After the charter is enacted, Meechai said the CDC and the NLA would still have to work together on writing 10 more organic laws.

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