Senators cannot nominate prime minister under new charter

1_thai-parliamentIn a move to give greater voice to voters, appointed senators will not be able to nominate candidates for prime minister as that role will be reserved for political parties, according to an amendment to the new constitution passed by the drafting committee last week, as a poll showed that a majority of Thais believed it was more important that prime ministers be honest and capable than whether or not they were elected.

Under the new constitution, the Senate will be an appointed body, while the public will still elect members of the House of Representatives. Under many parliamentary systems, voters elect members of the House and the House members then elect a prime minister. In Thailand’s new system, however, the entire parliament, including Senators, will be allowed to vote for who will become prime minister.

Some critics of the new charter have said that it is less democratic to allow Senators to participate in the selection of prime ministers, and that they may end up proposing an unelected prime minister. The charter drafters, however, have heeded their concerns and compromised by writing the amendment that Senators cannot nominate candidates for prime minister. They will, however, be allowed to vote on the candidates nominated by the political parties in the House.

If the joint session of the House and Senate cannot agree on any nominee, only then will it be possible for lawmakers to nominate an ‘outsider’ or non-elected candidate.

The Constitutional Court must still be presented with the amendment to rule on whether or not it meets the criteria to be lawful and matches the intent of the voters.

The amendment came about through the “extra question” on the recent referendum on the constitution. Voters approved the draft charter with a 61 percent majority in a national referendum on August 7, only the second constitution in Thai history to be submitted to voters for approval. The referendum contained a second question – whether or not the entire parliament should vote on selecting the prime minister – and voters also approved that proposal with a majority of 58 percent.

A majority of Thais surveyed last week said, however, that they do not care if a prime minister is elected or not as long as they can deliver on their promises, are honest, have integrity and put the national interest ahead of their personal or business interests, according to the Suan Dusit Rajabhat University polling agency.

The poll found that 55 percent of respondents said the manner in which the prime minister is selected is unimportant, while 32 percent said political parties should nominate the prime minister, and 12 percent preferred an unelected outsider.

The poll surveyed 1,167 people from all regions of the country.