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Talks of possible return to the 2019 electoral system has already reportedly started to shape up with many parliamentarians already in the process of looking at ways to revert the constitutional amendments that have been undertaken over the past year.
Coalition and opposition parties will wait for the Election Commission (EC) to decide on the validity of the new party-list MP calculation method first before deciding on their next move, which includes asking the Constitutional Court to rule on the amendment or reverting back to the one ballot electoral system, parliamentarians said.
“Things are still unclear right now but using 500 to divide will be unconstitutional because it would be against Section 91 of the current charter,” Paiboon Nititawan, the deputy leader of the ruling Palang Pracharath Party, told Thai Enquirer.
Parliament on July 6 voted to approve the second reading of the draft bill which proposed for the use of 500 to divide votes for party-list MP candidates at the next general election. They rejected the use of 100 to calculate the seats as originally proposed which was more favourable for large parties.
The bill is set to be forwarded to the parliament tomorrow (July 26) for the next reading. At the same time, the key opposition party – Pheu Thai, has already said that it would look at seeking the ruling of the Constitutional Court on whether the move is a breach of the constitution or not.
According to the approved method, 500 (the total number of all MPs which includes 400 constituency MPs and 100 party-list MPs) will be used to divide party-list votes to determine the minimum number of listed MPs that each party would get.
The EC is now considering whether the method is in accord with the law before sending the draft bill back to parliament for its third reading.
“We have to wait for the EC’s decision on this issue first and the next possible checkpoint is the Constitutional Court,” Paiboon said.
Paiboon’s comment that the Constitutional Court could be asked to rule on the 500-calculation method echoed that of the comment made by Cholnan Srikaew, the leader of the main opposition Pheu Thai Party, who said after parliament’s decision on July 6 that the matter will be taken to court.
Besides the possibility of asking the Constitutional Court to rule on the issue, Paiboon also said last week that another way out from this calculation method predicament is to revert back to using the previous system with one ballot system instead of the current two ballot system, one for constituency MPs and the other for preferred political party.
When Thai Enquirer asked for further comments on reverting back to the one ballot system, Paiboon refused and said that he wants to wait for the EC’s decision first.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha is in favour of the 500-calculation method which was seen as a bid to prevent the Pheu Thai Party from winning a landslide victory at the next general election. The premier was also against the move to change the electoral system to two ballot system, which also benefits large parties like Pheu Thai.
Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said last Friday that the charter could be amended back to the one-ballot electoral system but it would take at least one year for the amendment to be completed.
A one-year timeframe (July 2023) would be well beyond the March 2023 end of the term of this government. But talks are that the next general election will commence after the current government’s term ends in March 2023, with or without the amendment.
Rangsiman Rome, spokesman of the Move Forward Party told Thai Enquirer that according to the charter, the method to calculate the party-list MPs should be divided by 100 and the move to use 500 instead could be against the law.
When asked if the Move Forward Party would support a petition to ask the Constitutional Court to rule on the issue, Rangsiman said there is a need to wait for the EC’s decision first.
“We have to wait and see what the EC would do because if it is against the law, they will have to send it back to parliament and lawmakers will have to discuss on it again,” he said.
Rangsiman also said that if a petition was proposed to the court and the court ruled that it was unconstitutional, there is a risk that there will be no parliament-approved electoral rules for the next election at all.
“The scary thing is that if that happened, General Prayut could issue an emergency decree to fix this problem and that will definitely be bad,” he said.