CDC rejects 'emergency powers' provision for Thailand PM

CDC rejects 'emergency powers' provision for Thailand PM

Charter drafters settle for non-elected prime minister, elected by mps, in the event of a crisis

Constitution drafters yesterday rejected a proposed provision that would have given the prime minister wide-ranging "emergency powers" modelled after the powers of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) head.

The Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) debated the provision in the new charter that would have empowered the prime minister to take necessary measures when dealing with emergency cases that threatened national unity, sovereignty, public order, the monarchy or the economy.

That power would have also applied to cases of conflict that threatened to lead to violence or paralysed the political process.

According to the proposal, the prime minister would have been able to exercise the power after receiving Cabinet endorsement.

With Cabinet endorsement, the prime minister would have had the power to make any order to disrupt or suppress regardless of the legislative, executive or judicial force of that order.

That order, act or any performance in accordance with that order would have been deemed to be legal, constitutional and conclusive.

The proposed clause is modelled exactly after Article 44 of the current provisional charter, which came into effect following the coup last May and gave NCPO chief General Prayut Chan-o-cha, who is now also prime minister, that wide-ranging power.

At their meeting at the Holiday Inn Hotel in Pattaya, some CDC members voiced support for the proposed provision, citing the need for a measure to help the country extricate itself out of political deadlock.

However, the drafters who disagreed with the provision argued that handing this power to the prime minister would lead to a worse crisis, particularly when an administration was involved in a conflict with protesters from an opposing group.

Charter drafters instead inserted an article that legitimises a non-elected PM, stating that in times of crisis MPs can vote for non-elected candidates to become the premier.

The article stipulates that "His Majesty the King shall appoint a prime minister along with no more than 35 Cabinet members.

Their responsibility is to collectively oversee public administration.

The speaker of the lower house of representatives then signs to accept the Royal appointment of the prime minister, who can serve in the office for a maximum of two terms".

The article doesn't require PM candidates to be elected MPs, which opens the way for non-elected candidates to be elected by MPs.

CDC spokesman Kamnoon Sidhisamarn said "the deliberation process of PM candidates will be transparent and open to the public during House meetings.

MPs who are representative of the people will have the power to decide.

This measure is designed for [activation] in times of crisis, when it may be necessary to have a non-elected PM".

The move has been criticised by sections of the public, who have suggested that the provision will give the wealthy and the powerful the chance to sit in the country's chief executive office without testing their public popularity.

However, others said the provision provided for an alternative means of solving a political crisis other than a military coup.

Another significant item on the charter drafters' agenda is the aim to create separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches.

A few provisions have been drafted to strengthen and stabilise the executives.

A provision stipulates that the prime minister can propose an MP vote of confidence in the administration.

However, in cases where the PM receives less than half of the vote, the premier, with royal approval, can dissolve the lower house.

During the drafting process of this article, charter drafters discussed the provision in relation to the wider goal of separating the executive and legislative branches.

Therefore, they said that it was necessarily to design measures to ensure the stability of the administration through strong executive branches so they were free from the influence of MPs.

Another factor that influenced the drafters' decision-making is the high probability that the elected government under the new constitution would be a coalition.

Past experiences suggest that coalition parties or some groups of MPs will therefore have high negotiation powers over the executive in order to keep them in the coalition.

Such a provision is, therefore, designed to strengthen the executive in circumstances where certain groups of MPs or coalition parties begin to "cause trouble" - for example, vote against proposed bills.

"What MPs fear the most is the election, because for them it is the most exhausting period," said a CDC member, adding that if the executive sought a vote of confidence from Parliament, it could be seen as it sending a message to MPs saying that either they support the administration or face another general election.

Articles 184 is another article which strengthened the executive.

It stipulates that the PM can declare to the lower house that MPs have to choose between approving the bill or facing dissolution of the lower house.

Kamnoon said that it was a provision designed to increase the stability of the executive branch.

Another CDC spokesman, Banjerd Singkhaneti, explained that Articles 183 and 184 were designed to create stability and the effective administration of a coalition government formed as a result of the introduction of the mixed-member proportional electoral system, which, if implemented, is expected to produce many smaller and medium-sized political parties.

He said Article 184 was designed for future important bills that must be passed so the executive could achieve an administrative goal.

Banjerd said that in the past many governments had to resign because important bills were rejected by Parliament.

"This provision is designed to give the administration time to solve the problem," he said.

Powers of PM, cabinet

Major provisions on the powers of the prime minister and cabinet that were agreed upon by the Constitution Drafting Committee yesterday.

lNon-elected prime minister is allowed.

lSenators are empowered to scrutinise ministerial candidates.

lCabinet members must submit records of their assets over the past three years.

lCabinet members have the obligation to attend parliamentary debate and question session.

lExecutives can ask MPs for administrative approval; if they receive support from less than half the House, the PM shall dissolve Parliament.

lExecutives can declare important bills that need to be passed; without approval from MPs, the PM can dissolve Parliament.

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