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Pro-Prayut lawmakers take legal twist for divided-by-500 electoral system

By Thai Newsroom Reporters

A VAST MAJORITY OF LAWMAKERS faithful to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha today (July 6) dumped the mixed-member-majority system and instead endorsed the mixed-member-proportional system for use in the next general election, fueling the criticism that the executive branch has unduly interfered in the business of the legislative branch.

In a second reading of the constitution’s highly controversial organic law pertaining to the election for MPs during today’s joint House/Senate meeting, 354 lawmakers voted for the mixed-member-proportional system, compared to 162 legislators who voted for the mixed-member-majority system and 41 others who abstained from voting.

The mixed-member-proportional system calls for the total number of nationwide votes for all party-listed candidates to be divided by 500 as proposed by the pro-government minority side of the extraordinary parliamentary committee in charge of scrutinising the organic law.

However, the minority side of the extraordinary committee was given overwhelming support from the majority of coalition MPs and senators for the passage of the divided-by-500 system.

The divided-by-500 system could probably see a dozen of splinter parties’ candidates running in party-listed mode elected as had been the case in the 2019 election which saw a dozen MPs of splinter parties, most of which only have one MP each, find their way to parliament, join ranks with the Palang Pracharath-led coalition and lend solid support for the army chief-turned-premier.

That compared to the mixed-member-majority system which calls for the total number of nationwide votes for all party-listed contestants to be divided by 100, thus largely reducing the likelihood for a single one candidate of the splinter parties to get elected.

The organic law calls for the making of a total of 500 elected legislators, including 400 in constituency-based mode and 100 in party-listed mode. The pro-Prayut lawmakers have changed their stand in favour of the mixed-member-proportional system which they deemed to render advantages to the splinter parties whilst dwindling the opportunities for their archrivals such as Pheu Thai Party to win overwhelming MP seats.

Those who voted for the divided-by-500 system included MPs of the largest coalition partner Palang Pracharath Party, Bhumjaithai Party and Democrat Party, plus the unelected senators, most of whom had earlier endorsed the divided-by-100 system.

The twist in the standpoints of the pro-Prayut legislators who had earlier supported the divided-by-100 system occurred in response to the latest preference for the divided-by-500 system reportedly adopted by Prayut who earlier made it known to the public that he has intended to prolong his rule beyond the next general election.

Extraordinary committee chairman Sathit Pitutecha blamed the Prayut government for allegedly failing to have paid due respect for the legislative branch and interfering in the latter’s business. According to Sathit who concurrently performs as deputy public health minister and Democrat MP, the Prayut regime has stood behind the about-face of the coalition MPs and senators toward the significant organic law.

Pheu Thai party leader Chonlanan Srikaew said the responsibility for the apparent failure to adhere to the principles of the amended constitution’s organic law pertaining to the election for MPs has not only rested with the legislative branch but the executive branch.

The Constitutional Court will likely be petitioned to determine whether today’s change in the electoral system by the majority of MPs and senators may be constitutional or not, he said.

Prayut’s preference for the divided-by-500 system apparently designed in favour of the splinter parties has allegedly stemmed from fears that the opposition Pheu Thai Party might probably defeat Palang Pracharath Party, headed by Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan, and other coalition camps, thus scoring a “landslide” victory as earlier forecast by Pheu Thai de facto leader/former premier Thaksin Shinawatra.


Top: Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha.

Front Page: Some lawmakers at today’s meeting. Both photos: Matichon

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