Charter amendments to test Thai ruling coalition's partnership (2)

19:36, January 24, 2011      

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The proposed amendments are contained in two separate draft bills -- one to amend the electoral system of House members under Sections 93-98 of the current 2007 constitution and the other to change wording in Section 190 on bilateral and multi-lateral agreements.

Coalition partners, including Abhisit's Democrat Party, seemed to agree on changing the current multi-seat constituencies to a smaller single-seat one and on raising the number of House members to 500 from the current 480.

Political parties, particularly the smaller ones, prefer small constituencies as it makes it easier for their campaigning for votes.

Observers also believe that small electoral boundaries allow election candidates to buy votes easier.

Abhisit's Democrat Party, a big and well-established organization, is known to prefer a bigger multi-seat system as this will allow the party to win more MPs, but gave in to the demand of other smaller coalition partners in hope to keep their alliance.

But the Democrats wanted the composition of the proposed 500 House members to have 375 coming from constituency representation and the other 125 from party-list representation.

Other smaller coalition partners, however, prefer to have 400 coming from constituency representation and the other 100 from party-list system, as they stand a better chance to have more candidates elected into the House under a bigger number of constituency MPs.

Deputy Prime Minister Sanan Kajornprasart, a senior member of Chart Thai Pattana Party, a smaller coalition partner, has told reporters that the 400 to 100 format would "definitely sail through" in the parliament while those who support the 375 to 125 structure would "have to pray for it".

Sanan, who used to be a secretary general of the Democrat Party and an interior minister, remains an influential figure of Thai politics.

At a voting by a joint House-Senate committee to scrutinize the two draft bills earlier this month, committee members were even, 17 to 17, on the new House members composition they wanted to endorse.

The committee chairman, Terdpong Chaiyanan, a senior Democrat MP, had to exercise his vote to push through the 375-125 format.

In the current House, 400 members are elected from constituencies while 80 are party-list representatives.

Party-list candidates usually are technocrats who are not keen on electoral campaigns, but whose expertise is needed by the party in administering the government.

The Democrats want to raise the number of party-list MPs in drawing more capable experts in various fields into politics.

It is also believed the party, favored by well-educated middle class in urban areas, will benefit from a larger number of party- list representatives.

In the second reading of the two draft bills, members of the bicameral parliament will deliberate and vote on the bills section by section. The sections will be passed by a simple majority of members of both chambers.

After the completion of the second reading, a third and final reading will be convened only at least 15 days afterwards, when a draft will be passed into law if it wins more than half of the existing members of the House and Senate combined, or 313 votes.
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