Move Forward says it needs speaker’s post to avoid legislative inertia

THURSDAY, MAY 25, 2023

The Move Forward Party is not attempting a power grab in its push to control the dual post of House speaker and Parliament president, it said in a detailed post on its Facebook page late on Wednesday.

Rather, it wants to ensure it can accomplish three critical legislative goals, and avoid the legislative inertia of the last four years of government, it said.

The three critical goals are:

1. amending the Constitution to make Thailand more democratic,

2. enacting progressive legislation, and

3. enhancing transparency and the people’s inclusion in Parliament.

The explanation was posted after two members of the Pheu Thai Party, the key partner in the planned Move Forward-led coalition, cried foul. They said it was excessive for the coalition leader to control both the presidency and the legislature when it failed to win a majority in the House of Representatives.

Move Forward won 151 of 500 seats in the House of Representatives, according to unofficial results announced by the Election Commission.

Move Forward said in the post that because the speaker guides legislation through the House of Representatives, it requires a speaker who can ensure its three critical changes are made.

The speaker determines which bills are introduced for debate and controls the process required to turn them into law, the Move Forward post explained.

It portrayed the House of Representatives under the last four years of government as being under the control of outgoing Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha and his Cabinet.

The post noted that only 78 of 478 bills submitted to the House of Representatives during the past four years were enacted.

Of the 78 bills that became law, most were sponsored by the Cabinet of outgoing Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha, the post said, adding that only four were sponsored by MPs in Prayut’s coalition.

Not a single bill sponsored by civil society cleared Parliament, Move Forward noted. Under Thai law, a bill can be submitted to the House of Representatives for debate if it has the signatures of 10,000 voters. Generally, these bills are drafted by civil society groups.

As a result, the House of Representatives failed to respond to the new challenges Thailand faces, Move Forward said.

Most of the 400 bills that failed to pass through the legislature were not even debated by MPs because they were rejected because of parliamentary technicalities, the post said, adding: “355 bills lapsed because of an ineffective parliamentary process.”

It added that the House speaker and the prime minister had the power to decide what legislation MPs could debate.

For example, 180 bills were deemed by the then-House speaker as being related to the national budget and required Cabinet approval before being submitted to the House for debate, the post said, adding that the prime minister refused to endorse 85 of them and sent only 45 to the House for debate.

Move Forward promised during the election campaign to enact at least 47 bills: 11 political bills, eight bills on rights and freedom, eight bills on land reform, eight bills on bureaucratic reform, four bills on public services, four economic bills, two environmental bills and two labour bills.

Move Forward said the memorandum of understanding signed between eight prospective coalition partners stated that the charter will have to be amended to pave the way for a new constitution.

This will require several parliamentary meetings, which must be directed by a House speaker determined to push for a new democratic charter, it explained in its Facebook post.

Move Forward also wants to ensure what it refers to as an “Open Parliament”, one with greater transparency in how both chambers work and with more input from the public, it said, adding that a House speaker committed to transparency is required to ensure this is accomplished.

To ensure transparency, three changes will be made, Move Forward said.

1. All meetings of parliamentary committees will be broadcast live for the public to monitor. MPs' voting records will be recorded and the public will be easily able to access the records.

2. The role of the Parliamentary Budget Office will be expanded to monitor and analyse the spending by all government agencies to ensure that every single baht spent benefits the public.

3. A Youth Parliament should be established under the House Secretariat with its members elected by youths nationwide. Any decision of the Youth Parliament must be automatically considered for debate by Parliament and they will have the same status as civil-society bills.