Bid to curb Senate’s PM role falls flat

Bid to curb Senate's PM role falls flat

Lack of quorum stops charter debate

A joint sitting of parliament failed to meet a quorum on Wednesday after only 245 MPs and senators were present at the meeting to examine a charter amendment bid to curtail Senate powers.

Parliament president Chuan Leekpai declared the joint sitting adjourned when a head count saw the sitting fall short of the quorum.

A total of 337 members were required, but proceedings were halted when it was found the meeting was 92 members short.

Later, opposition lawmakers led by Pheu Thai MP for Chiang Mai, Jullapan Amornwiwat, accused the senators of trying to block the charter amendment attempt.

The amendment seeks to remove the Senate’s power to join MPs in selecting a prime minister and requires that a prime minister must be elected and must also be an MP.

Mr Jullapan said MPs were pushing for the deliberation of the charter amendment bill because the general election would take place soon and people do not want the Senate to have a role in the prime minister’s selection. They see the Senate’s role as stacked in favour of the coup-makers.

He claimed senators forced the meeting to collapse by refusing to declare their presence in the chamber. The charter amendment bill was the third item on the meeting’s agenda, but it was moved up following a meeting of parliament’s whips.

However, Senator Somchai Sawangkarn claimed no senators were present at that meeting and had later asked for a vote to decide if the charter amendment bill should be moved up.

Mr Chuan said he was authorised to make changes to the meeting agenda and insisted the Senate Speaker had already been informed. Pheu Thai leader Cholnan Srikaew accused the senator of trying to block the charter amendment.

However, Mr Chuan agreed to call a vote as proposed by Mr Somchai and proceeded with a quorum check. He adjourned the session when the number of participants fell short of the required number to meet the quorum.

Chaiya Promma, a Pheu Thai MP for Nong Bua Lam Phu, defended MPs blamed by the senator for triggering House meeting collapses due to a lack of quorums over the past year.

He said MPs used the tactic to stall bills opposed by the public and that such a tactic was legitimate. The House was dubbed “Collapsible” last year by reporters on the parliament beat.