The Thai constitutional referendum

The constitutional revision process set up by the military government has reached its conclusion, as Thai voters approved the new constitution, which will replace the charter of 1997.

It was not exactly a ringing endorsement, however. Only 57.8% voted for the draft and the voter turnout was only 57.6%. Although I can’t say for sure, I believe the recent historical record of constitutions drafted by authoritarian governments claiming to be returning to democracy are passed overwhelmingly. (I can think of one outright defeat: Uruguay in 1980. Perhaps readers will know of others.)

RTE Ireland also offers a brief summary of some of the new provisions (with some details from the original edited out and commentary of mine added in footnotes):

MILITARY: […] The constitution also gives a blanket amnesty to the military officers who launched the September 2006 coup against Mr Thaksin, and their appointed officials.

PRIME MINISTER: A prime minister cannot serve for more than eight consecutive years. The previous charter had no limits. ((Along with Botswana and South Africa, Thailand will become one of the few parliamentary systems to impose term limits on the chief executive.))

Only 96, or one fifth, of MPs are required to launch a no-confidence motion against the prime minister. The 1997 ‘People’s Constitution’ required two fifths. […]

SENATE (UPPER HOUSE): The 150-seat senate is divided into two groups. Seventy-six senators will be elected directly and 74 appointed by an unelected panel of judges and the heads of independent state watchdogs.

Under the previous constitution, all 200 senators were elected directly. ((By SNTV with party affiliations prohibited.)) […]

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES (LOWER HOUSE): The 1997 constitution’s principle of ‘one constituency, one MP’ makes way for a complicated population-weighted system under which more populous constituencies get more MPs.

The lower-house electoral system was actually MMM after 1997 (see previous entries here in the Thailand block for details). The new one restores a version of the old MNTV system (1 – 3 seats each), but from other sources, I understand that there will still be a list tier, as well: 400 seats in the nominal tier and 80 in the list tier (with no separate list vote and, I believe, a ban on dual candidacy). Unlike the 1997-2006 system, the list tier is itself regional, rather than a single national district.

The new constitution will not be quite a restoration of the pre-1997 system, but it contains many elements more in line with it than with the one overthrown by the military. It certainly is more favorable to the old pre-Thaksin regional elites than the 1997 charter was.

0 thoughts on “The Thai constitutional referendum

  1. In an english translation of the new constitution the parliament looks like this:
    * a House of Representatives of 400 members:
    – 320 by pluarlity in constituencies of 1-3 seats
    – 80 by list-PR in 4 zones of 20 seats: “The number of PR seats that a contesting political party wins will depend on the total number of votes it receives for its constituency candidates”
    * a Senate appointed by a Senator Selection Commission (not even indirectly elected)

    If you read the whole text, many detailed articles uncover an deep distrust in elected politicians…

    (I hope it is the final text, I have also found an earlier draft in english)

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