BANGKOK- Thailand's army-dominated national assembly approved amendments to the country's draft constitution at a third reading on Thursday, paving the way for a referendum on the newly drafted charter next year.
Among the proposals in the charter is a clause that allows for an unelected prime minister and for the upper house Senate to be largely appointed.
Opponents say the charter is a major step backwards for Thailand and will only serve to consolidate the military's hold on power and weaken existing political parties.
Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, who as army chief came to power in a May 2014 coup, has laid out a 15-month road map involving, among other things, the drafting of a new charter that he says will pave the way for elections sometime in 2016.
If a referendum is held it could push polls back further.
Prayuth will now have 15 days to present the draft charter to Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej for approval.