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NRC pushing PM direct-election plan

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NRC pushing PM direct-election plan | Thaiger


– Thailand news selected by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

NRC pushing PM direct-election plan
The Nation / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: Despite concern and opposition, the National Reform Council (NRC) panel on political reform insisted again yesterday that a direct election of the prime minister would help reduce vote-buying.

It added, however, that a winner in such a poll must first attain more than half the votes cast.

Sombat Thamrongthanyawong, chairman of the panel, held a press conference yesterday along with four other panel members to reiterate their stance. Sombat claimed that if the panel’s proposal were adopted in the new charter, it would be the world’s first such system.

If a candidate for prime minister nominated by a political party failed to win a clear majority, a second round of votes would take place between the two top candidates with the same requirement – that the winner needed to attain a simple majority.

Cabinet members would also be directly elected under this new system. Sombat argued that such a system would not only reduce the level of vote-buying but would also help a prime minister gain more support from members of Parliament.

Pheu Thai Party legal expert Noppadon Pattama cast doubts on the idea, however. He posted a list of eight questions regarding the panel’s proposal for a system to elect the prime minister directly.

Acknowledging that proponents of such a system might have good intentions for the country, Noppadon asked on his Facebook page if the country would be moving towards a US-style presidential system if such a proposal were adopted.

He said Thailand’s parliamentary system closely resembled the United Kingdom’s Westminster system. He questioned that if the cabinet were also directly elected, would the prime minister have the mandate to reshuffle ministers?

Furthermore, would the lower house have the authority to launch a no-confidence vote against a directly elected prime minister?

Noppadon said he was not convinced the proposed new system would reduce vote-buying. On the contrary, he argued, as the stakes were higher, it might work in the opposite direction.

He also warned that a strong prime minister would be difficult to scrutinise as he or she would have too much of a mandate.

Meanwhile, Sombat called the concerns of an elected prime minister being compared to the monarchy as unwarranted, explaining that Thai people would vote for a candidate who was loyal to the monarchy.

The panel also proposed that anyone who had received a jail term in any criminal case in the Supreme Court would be disqualified as an election candidate, even if the sentence had been suspended. Previously, only those who had been jailed by the Supreme Court without such a suspension could be disqualified as election candidates.

Moreover, those who had been stripped of their electoral rights by the new charter would also be permanently barred from running in an election. This new regulation, if adopted, would not be applied retroactively.

In a related development, Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha was asked if he had any ambition to seek direct election as PM if the rules were changed. He said no, adding that he had no desire to become a politician.

PM Prayut also refused to comment on the proposal to have a directly elected PM.

— Phuket Gazette Editors


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