What is happening with the plan for a fully elected senate in Thailand?By Bangkok Pundit Sep 03, 2013 11:00AM UTC
BP has already blogged on a previous poll that showed a clear majority supported an elected Senate – in that post BP also mentioned two other polls in the past that showed majorities had supported an elected Senate. BP has also blogged on the fear and loathing by some about an elected Senate.
NIDA surveyed 1,249 people throughout the country between August 26-27.
Q1: Where do you think Senators should come from?
A. All elected, 63.65%
B. Half-elected & half-appointed, 25.78%
C. All appointed, 5.44%
D. Should not have Senate in future, 2.4%
E. No opinion/no idea/not sure, 2.72%
BP: Every poll that BP has seen shows this and that is a clear majority support a fully elected Senate.
Q2: Do you think that the network or family of MPs or political office holders should have the right to be Senators?
A. Shouldn’t allow because they would not be neutral, 65.65%
B. Should allow, 25.38%
C. No opinion/no idea/not sure, 8.97%
BP: Find this wording of the question slightly weird as network is quite vague. Another poll, with a much smaller survey sample, had a 46-38% plurality the restrictions for family members being removed, but a majority for restrictions against political office holders (would have been interesting if NIDA have asked separately about removal of spouses, ascendants, and children and also political official holders/MPs). Nevertheless, the issue of removing restrictions has been a focus of the criticism given it does not have broad public support. Now, there are signs the government may back down. The Bangkok Post:
The parliamentary committee scrutinising charter amendments on the make-up of the Senate have agreed to review section five of the 13-section charter change bill, which seeks to allow parents and spouses of MPs to run in senate elections.
Pheu Thai list MP Cherdchai Tantisirin, who is a member of the vetting committee, said the panel met on Monday to discuss amending the proposals in section five after many groups voiced strong opposition to it through media channels and opinion polls.
MP Cherdchai said committee members were divided over whether to reject section five. Opponents of the bill urged the section be removed to ease concerns by members of all parties and prevent the Democrats from using filibustering tactics to slow down the deliberation of amendment bills.
The committee has resolved to make a decision on what to do about the section after the joint sitting of parliament considers it on Wednesday, when heated debate on the issue is likely.
BP: It is probably not that important of a provision for Puea Thai to keep in – because candidates allied or viewed as supportive of Puea Thai will likely win a plurality of seats anyway. Removing it will likely not stop the Democrats from trying to block the bills overall passage, but removing it would be wise for Puea Thai so it can be viewed as a concession. Will they though?
Q3: Do you agree or not whether Senators should have more than one term?
A. Agree, 47.4%
B. Disagree, 45.8%
C. No opinion/no idea/not sure, 6.81%
BP: Close, but it is really the removal of restrictions as per Q2 which is the bigger issue. Also, in order to get the current amendment through the Senate which includes current elected senators who want to run again, dumping the removal of the one-term restriction would make it difficult to pass the bill.
Thai Rath‘s political analysis for September 2 has a quote from the Elected Senator for Chonburi [either Democrat territory as per 2007 election or Palang Chon territory per 2011 election, but not Puea Thai] who notes that he voted in favor of the Democrat-led proposal to amend the electoral system for MPs a few years ago, but he also supports this amendment regarding the election of Senators.
On the controversial issue of removing the restriction on Senate candidates being ascendants, children, or spouse or being political office holders or an MP within the last 5 years, he believes that voters will use their judgment and evaluate the qualities of a candidate if a family member runs. He is confident there is enough support for it to pass.
BP: Polls have shown a consistent majority for a fully elected Senate. Hence, in the many days of debate in parliament, BP was surprised how strongly some Democrats argued in favor of going to a fully elected Senate - see this post for some examples – although Abhisit did came up with his own proposal later last week of an elected Senate which involved larger constituencies.* Did the polls convince the Democrats to offer an alternative?
Logically, from an opposition point of view and wanting to keep the heat on the government as well as concern that they are effectively losing out because of an elected senate, BP can understand why the Democrats wanted to oppose the amendment although am a little surprised about their overall strategy (were the antics in parliament including one MP grabbing the throat of a policeman the best way to counter the “oppressive dictatorship”?)
If the Democrats had offered an alternative version of a fully elected senate from the beginning – particularly against removal of some of the restrictions – and spent more time arguing for this alternative they would be in a better position to force more concessions out of Puea Thai and look good in doing so. If Puea Thai could have got the Democrats on board by making a few concessions, ie not removing the restrictions on Senate candidates, then Puea Thai would have come under pressure to make the concessions or it would have looked bad that they didn’t. However, with Democrat MPs arguing on the dangers of a fully elected senate and opposing the powers a fully elected senate would have (the same as what a partially appointed senate has now) then they are sending mixed messages about exactly what they want. Actually, what do they want?
*It seems a reasonable proposal to discuss as would be interested to see how they will decide to group provinces.