By Thai Newsroom Reporters
TODAY’S (JULY 5) JOINT House/Senate meeting was abruptly adjourned due to lack of a quorum as pro-government lawmakers have been obviously divided and undecided over some electoral systems to choose for use in the next general election for MPs.
The joint House/Senate meeting had proceeded for less than four hours with a two-hour break in between as the lawmakers had apparently failed to make up their mind whether to vote for or against some questionable clauses of the constitution’s organic law pertaining to the future election for MPs, prompting some coalition MPs and senators to remain outside the parliament chamber and others to stay inside but choose to not formally report themselves as attendees.
Parliament President Chuan Leekpai was finally forced to adjourn the joint House/Senate meeting until tomorrow, given the event in which the quorum was otherwise needing over 100 more lawmakers to make it. Today’s joint parliamentary session had seen 726 MPs and senators attending hours before the quorum, thus accounting for one half of the total attendees or 363, went short.
Such a phenomenon at parliament occurred in the face of an apparent failure for government MPs, especially those of the largest coalition partner Palang Pracharath Party, as well as the unelected senators, all of whom were handpicked by the 2014 coup junta headed by army chief-turned-premier Prayut Chan-o-cha, to reach a conclusion among themselves to settle the bones of contention put on floor debate in relation to the electoral modes.
That referred to whether they would vote for the system in which the electoral numeral for a contestant should be the same as that for the party under whose tickets he or she may run or whether they would pick the system in which the electoral numeral for a contestant should be different from that for the party under whose banners he or she may run.
Members of the extraordinary committee in charge of scrutinising the organic law have been obviously split over the issue with a pro-government majority having endorsed the different-numeral system and the opposition-led minority having preferred the same-numeral system.
The committee’s majority who has preferred the different-numeral system admits that it might be confusing to those who will go to the polls but it might as well considerably reduce the chances for any vote-buying contestants to get elected whilst the committee’s minority who has endorsed the same-numeral system maintains that it will spare the voters the “avoidable” confusion.
In the meantime, the coalition MPs, especially those of Palang Pracharath Party headed by Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan, and the senators have apparently remained undecided over whether a total number of votes for party-listed candidates should be divided by 100 or should be divided by 500 to become MPs under the mixed-member proportional representation system.
The constitution’s organic law on the election for MPs provides for a total of 500 elected legislators, including 400 constituency-based MPs and 100 party-listed MPs.
If divided by 100, the total number of votes for party-listed candidates will automatically render advantages for big parties such as Pheu Thai Party whose de facto leader/former premier Thaksin Shinawatra has earlier forecast a “landslide” victory in the next nationwide election to make a number of MPs in addition to those who may contest individually and get elected in constituency-based mode.
If divided by 500, the total number of votes for party-listed candidates will automatically give a relatively wide chance for party-listed candidates of splinter parties such as those currently in support of the Prayut government to make a number of MPs as well.
According to a member of the extraordinary scrutinising committee, Prayut has opted for the divided-by-500 system for fear that party-listed candidates of the splinter parties might no longer find their way to parliament if the divided-by-100 system is applied.
The premier has also feared that Palang Pracharath Party and others which may have planned to support him as head of a post-election government might probably be defeated by Pheu Thai Party, Move Forward Party and other opponents in both party-listed and constituency-based modes, thus denying him the likelihood of being successfully named head of a post-election government as had been the case in the 2019 election, the committee member said.
The unelected Prayut would strongly crave the continual support of a dozen splinter parties, most of which may only have one MP each, just as they did three years ago, he said.
Tomorrow’s joint House/Senate meeting is not only handling the organic law governing the highly-controversial electoral systems but the other pertaining to political parties.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan attending today’s parliamentary meeting. Photo: Matichon