Charter vote wins House nod

Charter vote wins House nod

Referendum on poll day ‘will save money’

The House of Representatives yesterday unanimously voted for an opposition-sponsored motion calling for a referendum on the drafting of a new constitution, after the voting was deferred for more than one month.

The motion was endorsed with 323 MPs voting in support of the referendum and one abstention. It still needs the support of the Senate to turn it into action, but the Senate has not scheduled a meeting on the matter.

The Referendum Act requires the government to be notified about the motion after it is approved by both the lower and upper houses.

The motion calls on the government to hold a referendum asking the public if the country should have a new constitution drawn up by a charter drafting assembly made up of elected representatives to replace the current charter.

It also suggests the referendum be held on the same day as the next general election, which is tentatively set for May 7 by the Election Commission.

The House was supposed to vote on the motion on Sept 15, but the session collapsed due to the lack of a quorum.

The motion was proposed by Move Forward Party (MFP) MP Nattapong Ruangpanyawut and Pheu Thai MP Jullapan Amornwiwat, who cited several flaws in the constitution, including the role of senators in joining MPs to select a prime minister.

The Senate was appointed by the coup-makers in the National Council for Peace and Order, which was led by then-army chief Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha.

Mr Nattapong argued that a referendum would help resolve the ongoing political crisis, which he believed was caused by the current constitution.

He also said the referendum motion is in line with a ruling by the Constitutional Court on March 11, 2021, which said parliament has the power to draw up a new constitution, though the people who hold the power to establish the constitution must first decide in a referendum whether they want a new charter.

The court published the ruling in a shorter format, which made it clear that the power to draw up the constitution rests with the people and that only a referendum would give parliament the mandate to write and implement a new constitution, he said.

Senator Wanchai Sornsiri yesterday voiced his support for the referendum, saying that since the constitution was approved by a referendum, any changes must also be decided by the public as well.

He said senators should not obstruct the move as the motion was endorsed by the House of Representatives.

“The Senate could face heavy criticism if it opposes the referendum. The cabinet will now decide whether to act in line with the motion.

“The public already has a negative perception of the Senate. A vote against the referendum motion will only ruin the [Senate’s] image further,” Mr Wanchai said.

MFP leader Pita Limjaroenrat yesterday said that holding the referendum and the general election on the same day will save the government time and money.

“I hope more than half of the Senate will support the motion. In March last year, the Senate rejected charter changes seeking to establish a charter drafting assembly, reasoning that a referendum must be held first. This time, the Senate should have no reason to oppose a referendum,” he said.