Approved charter amendments pave way for Thai new election

21:34, February 11, 2011      

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The Thai parliament on Friday passed into law constitutional amendments that will pave the way for Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to call a fresh election soon.

Abhisit has reiterated that completion of the constitutional amendments is a condition for him to dissolve the House of Representatives and call a new election before his government finishes its term by the end of this year.

Thai economy also seems to be on its path to recovery as its gross domestic product (GDP) grew 7.9 percent in 2010 after a 2.3 percent contraction a year earlier on the global financial crisis - - another condition Abhisit has set for his decision.

The premier said on Wednesday that a fresh election could be held as soon as in June after the proposed amendments become law.

In its third and final reading on two constitutional amendment bills, a joint sitting of the House and Senate voted to approve changes to the electoral system of House members and to make it easier for the Thai government to enter into agreements with foreign nations.

One of the bills will amend Sections 93-98 of the current 2007 constitution to raise the number of House members to 500 from the current 480 with a smaller number coming from constituency representation and a larger number of party-list MPs.

Under the proposed change, 375 of the 500 House members will come from constituency representation while the other 125 from party-list representation.

Currently, the 480 House members consist of 400 constituency representatives and 80 party-list representatives.

This bill will also replace the current multi-seat MP constituencies with a smaller single-seat one.

The second bill will now amend Section 190 of the constitution, the current wording of which requires the government to request approval from the bicameral parliament for almost all of agreements it plans to enter into with a foreign nation.

The bill will require the drafting of a separate piece of legislation that will classify the various types of bilateral and multi-lateral agreements the Thai government would need approval from the parliament.

The two constitutional amendment bills will now be submitted for the royal sanction by King Bhumibol Adulyadej before its publishing in the royal gazette.

The bills were endorsed by the parliament in its first and second readings last November and in January respectively.

Before the joint sitting began its voting on the two bills, House members of the opposition Puea Thai Party tried to derail their passage into law by arguing that the way the Abhisit government presented the bills to the parliament was against parliamentary regulations, and hence, could be unconstitutional.

Members of the House and Senate spent two hours debating on the issue before president Chai exercised his authority as the chair to let the meeting proceed.

This forced Puea Thai members to walk out of the chamber in protest, and they did not return to the meeting.

Puea Thai has said it will submit a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Abhisit and certain cabinet ministers, but has not announced its submission date yet.

Some members of Abhisit's coalition partners - including Deputy Prime Minister Sanan Kajornprasart, a senior member of Chart Thai Pattana Party, a smaller coalition partner abstained from the voting on the amendments to the electoral system.

Sanan has been vocal against the cutting of the number of constituency House members as small political parties will not benefit from a larger party-list proportion.

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.

These candidates are not attracted to small parties, which are more popular among rural, under-educated Thai voters.

Source: Xinhua(By Sinfah Tunsarawuth)
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