Constitution author warns new election delay possible

Meechai Ruchupan (left) who supervised the writing of the constitution, says Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha's roadmap leading to an election in February is danger of total collapse. (Post Today graphic)

Constitution Drafting Committee chairman Meechai Ruchupan has warned against the "collapse" of the roadmap to the February election if the controversy over two organic bills on electing MPs and selecting senators is not settled by the Constitutional Court.

The CDC chairman said he will submit a letter expressing his concerns to National Legislative Assembly (NLA) president Pornpetch Wichitcholchai, recommending the controversial issues be settled by the court to avoid possible damage in the future.

"Although 25 NLA members intend seeking the court's ruling on the constitutionality of the bills, it will not affect the roadmap and election [next February] set by the prime minister," he said.

But if the bills are promulgated and some people petition the court later, it will be a big problem. "If the court rules against them [the provisions] later, the MP election and senate selection processes may even collapse," Mr Meechai said.

Under the charter, at least 25 NLA members are required to petition the court. Though the bills sailed through the NLA last Thursday, the CDC is still worried over certain troublesome issues as they could violate the charter, Mr Meechai said.

The CDC had questioned the constitutionality of a clause in the bill on the election of MPs that would ban individuals from political positions if they failed to vote in an election without good reason. In this case, the CDC's view is that it's up to them whether to vote or not.

Another issue concerns the clause that allows officials to help the disabled cast a vote. This could clash with the requirement that votes are made confidentially as stipulated in the charter and poses a risk the officials might cast a vote themselves instead of the disabled.

The last issue is about selecting senators that allows both individuals to field themselves and organisations to field candidates for selection. The latter procedure might violate the constitution which stipulates that senators are installed from selections by and among candidates. Allowing organisations to field candidates might clash with the requirement that senators are selected among themselves.

Mr Meechai said he will send his letter to Mr Pornpetch in a few days. "If the court rules against them [the provisions] later, the MP election and senate selection processes will collapse," he said. "We would have to start things over, write new laws, but the CDC will have been already dissolved by that time."

It was crucial to make clear whether the holders of political positions should be disqualified if they fail to cast ballots without good reason. The NLA argues they should lose their rights, but the CDC argues that whether they vote or not is a freedom protected by the charter.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said yesterday he agrees with Mr Meechai. It is better to "clarify things now" to avoid confusion. Though he cannot predict how long the court will take to look into the three issues, Gen Prayut believes its consideration will not affect the roadmap. "I insist we're still under the timeframe," he said. "Don't worry. Everyone will cast their votes eventually."

Mr Pornpetch said it will not be a problem if the court is asked to examine only the bill on selecting senators. But if it has to interpret the other bill, this may affect the roadmap.


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