By KASAMAKORN CHANWANPEN
CDC chief says junta holds absolute power but may not use it to dissolve Parliament.
CHIEF CONSTITUTION writer Meechai Ruchupan yesterday admitted the ruling junta would still hold absolute power under Article 44, which can be enforced to dissolve the House, but said also “propriety” was another matter.
The Constitution Drafting Commission (CDC) chairman said he believed the new Parliament would not fail to reach an agreement in selecting a premier.
The remark came after claims that the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) had the power to dissolve Parliament if its members could not agree on a choice for prime minister after a general election planned for late next year or early 2018.
Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said last week that General Prayut Chan-o-cha could order the dissolution in such circumstances. However, he then denied saying so, insisting he only meant the House dissolution via giving back power to the people.
Meechai said yesterday it was plausible under the new charter for the NCPO chief to retain the same power until the new government came into office, but added rhetorically: “You have the capability to jump off the building, but should you?”
He explained that like any other government, the junta is obliged to act in office until a new Cabinet is formed.
While an ordinary acting government does not have the capability to dissolve the House, the NCPO does because Prayut holds the power of the Article 44, allowed by the constitution passed in the August’s referendum.
But the chief drafter was optimistic that the new parliament would not face a dead end. The mechanisms provided would be sufficient to steer it forward, and over the course of the next two years there might even be other changes, Meechai said.
EC to face structural change
He added that all the speculation today might prove incorrect and members of House of Representatives might be able to garner 300 hands and successfully join forces in choosing a prime minister.
But he declined to say whether the mechanisms in the charter would pressure the rival Democrat and Pheu Thai parties to call a truce to form a government.
In a related development, Election Commission (EC) member Somchai Srisutthiyakorn said yesterday in a lecture at the King Prajadhipok's Institute that for technical reasons – such as the result announcement date – the next election might be held sooner.
Concerning the restructuring of provincial EC offices, Somchai said that the recruitment method should be adjusted and that members should come from the civil society rather than from the government agencies.
The latter, Somchai said, were more prone to be linked with politicians and this could result in a non-transparent election organisation.
Under the new constitution, the EC will be subject to a major structural change which will see its panel increased to seven commissioners from the current five.
The National Reform Steering Assembly (NRSA) yesterday voted to propose to the CDC that current EC members who are qualified by the charter could continue their terms and two additional members should be recruited within 30 days after the organic law is promulgated.
While some NRSA members such as Kamnoon Sitharaman expressed concerns that the uneven terms of service might cause trouble in future, 150 members passed the proposal on the EC organic law. Five voted against, with 10 abstaining.