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NLA denies any intention to delay the election

Feb 15. 2018
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THE NATIONAL Legislative Assembly (NLA) yesterday downplayed concerns that the body would reject two organic bills as a tactic to delay the scheduled election, arguing that there would be no problem in resolving the differences.

The NLA agreed yesterday to set up joint law review committees to review the embattled organic bills on the Senate and MP elections, after differences over their constitutionality rose among law drafters and legal experts. After the review process, the NLA is bound by the charter to vote on the committees’ reviewed and amended bills, raising concerns among some political observers that they could reject the bills. 

The charter does not address how to deal with the rejection of a bill, leaving room for further procedures to be developed and put in place to fix the problem, which could be time-consuming.

NLA President Pornpetch Wichitcholchai insisted that it was difficult to do that, explaining that the issues raised by concerned parties could be negotiated. The bills would have been shot down after the first reading if the NLA had intended to do so, he said. “In the Senate election bill, there is only one point on which there is disagreement – the origin of the senators. They can talk through it. We don’t have to turn down the draft,” Pornpetch said.

The NLA president noted that disagreements over legislation were common, as everyone wanted the organic bills to be the best possible. He said he had to come forward to address the issue as he realised it was affecting the country’s peace and order, insisting that the government’s road map adhered to the legislation of the organic laws.

“The amendments to the bills are to make sure that the election is perfect, leaving no problems that disturb public peace or lead to conflicts,” Pornpetch said.

Under the new Constitution, an election cannot take place unless the four essential organic laws are in effect.

So far, only two of them – the Election Commission and the political party laws – have been enforced. The bills governing the lower and upper houses remain in process due to differences between the Constitution Drafting Commission (CDC) and the Election Commission, leading to yesterday’s setting up of the law-review joint committees.

Pornpetch said that if the bills were rejected, the NLA would have to take responsibility, implying that legislators did not have a desire to do so.

Since the bills had already been passed in three readings and joint committees had been set up to review them, the Constitution required votes from two-thirds of the legislators to cancel them, he said.

“Two-thirds is 166 from 248 legislators. That is very difficult,” Pornpetch said.

Pornpetch remained positive that the situation would not escalate to a rejection of the bills. He said legislators should be able to reach an agreement on the current contentious issues.

Among the issues were the previous version of the Senate bill by the CDC, which prescribed upper house candidates as independent and elected from 20 professional guilds. 

The NLA in the second reading, however, adjusted that provision, dividing the candidates into two groups, one of independent candidates and the other of representatives of professional associations. 

The NLA argued that this could prevent bloc voting while the CDC was worried that the division of the Senate was not in line with the Constitution.

The MP election bill, meanwhile, had a section amended during the NLA deliberations to allow entertainment during election campaigns. But the CDC viewed the provision could pose budgeting issues. 

They also disagreed on the polling time. The NLA concluded it should be 7am to 5pm, while the CDC saw that schedule as problematic in practice.

The two joint committees have until the end of the month to review the bills and present them to the NLA for endorsement.


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