Abhisit opposes directly elected PM, cabinet

Abhisit opposes directly elected PM, cabinet

Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva yesterday expressed his opposition to the proposal for direct election of the prime minister and cabinet, saying such an administration could easily be corrupted by power.

The proposal has been reaffirmed by the political reform committee of the National Reform Council (NRC).

Abhisit said he had given his opinion to the Constitution Drafting Committee that the previous political crises had occurred because governments had abused power or used excessive power.

He feared that direct election of the prime minister and cabinet, which would separate the executive and legislative powers, would worsen such problems.

He said a directly elected prime minister might cite legitimacy from the people as an excuse to abuse power and it would be more difficult to demand accountability from the government leader.

He also did not see the proposal as addressing the political problems of the past.

"It would be better to find a way to demand accountability for use of excessive power, illegal actions and corrupt deeds from those having political power," Abhisit said.

The former prime minister supported the proposal to use a German-style electoral system but warned that the method was complicated and should be explained clearly to the people on how the number of winners of seats in the House of Representatives are calculated.

The Democrat leader also opposed the proposal by CDC panel chairman Anek Laothamatas regarding a provision for amnesty in the next charter for political offenders.

Abhisit said he saw no need for the rush to consider the issue and he feared that if the amnesty issue were taken up for consideration now, the reformers would get bogged down and would not be able to perform other more important tasks.

Meanwhile, CDC spokesman Wutthisarn Tanchai played down the proposal for direct election of the prime minister, saying it had not been finalised by the committee.

He said the CDC would have to hold more hearings and listen to opinions from several sides before the 36 charter drafters would hold discussions to try to finalise the proposals. He said the CDC would begin writing the constitution next month and it would take three months for the draft to take shape.

The spokesman said the CDC would not yet consider the issues of amnesty and a referendum for the draft charter because the timing was not right.

Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krue-ngam, who is in charge of the government's legal affairs, said direct election of the entire cabinet was "just a proposal" at the moment.

He added that a number of constitution drafters did not support the idea proposed by the NRC's subcommittee on political reform.

NRC member Paiboon Nititawan yesterday voiced his opposition to the proposal for direct election of the prime minister and other cabinet members. He said increased power for these people resulting from their status as directly elected public office holders would make it more difficult to scrutinise them.

Meanwhile yesterday, Chamnarn Janruang, a political-science academic in Chiang Mai, said he supported the direct election of the prime minister. He said it would strengthen the power of the PM and would discourage coup attempts against the government.

He said the direct election of the prime minister would not undermine the King's power because Thais could differentiate between the government leader and the head of state.

Professor Atthachak Sattayanurak, a lecturer at Chiang Mai University's faculty of humanities, said he did not understand why the NRC panel had proposed the idea.

He said problems were caused by some governments in the past having absolute power but the direct election of the prime minister would worsen the situation by further strengthening the hands of the government leader.

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