Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Constitutional amendments

Yesterday and today both the Senate and the House of Representatives have discussed several proposed amendments to the 2007 constitution. At the time of writing this posting I don't know yet any details on if and which of the amendments will get added to the constitution, most of the news articles are rather skeptical any of these amendments will make it. Out of the proposed amendments, the ones on the election system for the House of Representatives are the ones which fit within the scope of this blog. I had mentioned one major item already when it was first proposed by the constitutional reform panel - the return to the single seat constituencies introduced with the 1997 constitution.

The relevant articles of the constitution are 93 to 98, which right now call for 480 MPs - 400 from constituencies with up to three seats, and 80 party list MPs elected in eight regions with 10 MPs each. The proposal made by the government would change this to 500 MPs - 375 from a single seat constituencies and 125 from a single nationwide party list.

As since I posted on those changes last time I had finished reading the book "Myths and Realities: The Democratization of Thai Politics" I have now much more background on the rationale for introducing the single-seated constituencies it first place. The main idea was to strengthen the role of political parties, which traditionally are nothing but a loose grouping of individual politicians, who easily switch their party alliance whenever they see a political (or even monetary) gain from it. The multi seat constituencies are thought to support the factionalism, as each group of contenders running under the same party label in one constituency easily form the basis of a faction with one leader and two followers who strongly depend on their leader and thus support him after they are elected. However, in a single-seat constituency each candidate would be on his own, and thus would be more a party member than a faction member. Well, that was the theory, but during Thaksins terms there still were many factions within his Thai Rak Thai party, mostly held together by his money, the prospect of political power, but also because changing parties shortly before new elections was made more difficult.

But as these factions were existing since the end of the absolute monarchy, sometimes as factions with in parliament, sometimes as factions within cabinet, and the 1997 constitution didn't really change much on it, I have no hope the return to single-seat constituencies or the increase of number of party list MPs will have any significant effect now. Maybe the proposal made by Michael H. Nelson in 2007 of using the election system from Germany would change more - half of the MPs in Germany are direct candidates from constituencies to have the close relationship between electorate and candidate, yet the number of seat of each party in parliament only depends on the party list votes, with party list MPs filling up the seats available for each party not yet covered by direct candidates. But I doubt that the Thai parties are ready for such a change, as they would need a real program of policies prior to the elections - and banning whole parties and their leading politicians for illegal acts done by single executive members does help them to get strong enough for such a voting system.


john francis lee said...

' ...banning whole parties and their leading politicians for illegal acts done by single executive members does help them to get strong enough for such a voting system. '

Could you elaborate please?

Andy said...

I mean that banning Thai Rak Thai and PPP was wrong, same as adding that clause into the constitution. The only reason for banning a whole party would be if their policy includes unconstitutional things - e.g. trying to convert Thailand into a republic or a communist state. But banning because an executive was corrupt should not kill the whole party, and ban the whole list of leaders in that party, as it was done twice already. To ban politicians who are caught doing illegal things is of course OK.

Thus the constitutional court now is in a clear dilemma - there are many good reasons to ban the Democrats as well by those IMHO stupid laws, but if they don't the double standards will be so obvious nobody can deny it anymore.

If the target is to have stable parties with clear policies, like the parties in Europe, then this way banning is counterproductive - hard to imagine to have such parties when they get banned so easily and then have to build all party structures from scratch again, have to find new leading politicians to replace those banned ones, loosing all the funds collected by the banned party.

john francis lee said...

So... '...banning whole parties and their leading politicians for illegal acts done by single executive members does NOT help them to get strong enough for such a voting system. ' ?

I certainly agree. The Constitutional Court has no choice. It doesn't make laws, it sees to it that laws made by the legislature and possibly by the people, I'm very much in favor of laws made by the people, are consistently applied. Unfortunately the Thai Constitutional Court has suffered a great blow to its credibility just recently.

This Constitutional Court 'had' to be appointed by the coupsters, because the existing Constitutional Court would have had no choice but to jail them all for their criminal act of usurpation and subornation of the Constitution of Thailand..

In fact, independent of the corruption of their judges, the Thai legal system is a mess, with an Administrative Court for 'law' made by decrees of the Amat, a Constitutional Court now for the military's de facto constitution, and the real court system itself.

When the Constitution is reinstated after the next election it will take some thoughtful amendments itself to straighten out the courts as well as the military.

And they must, in my opinion, eliminate the bogus requirement for an educational degree beyond what is provided by the state to hold a seat in the parliament, which serves only to disenfranchise the vast majority of the population.