Thailand’s parliament votes on lawmaker changes as polls near


BANGKOK (Bloomberg): Thailand’s joint parliament voted late Wednesday (July 6) for an electoral change favouring smaller parties, potentially helping Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha’s military-backed political group in elections expected early next year.

Lawmakers debated for hours on the formula that determines how many votes each party would need to earn to get one of 100 party-list seats up for grabs in the 500-member House of Representatives for the next election. Under the chosen formula, smaller parties will be able to clinch the seats with fewer votes.

Thailand currently uses a modified version of the mixed-member proportional representation, which is practised in Germany and New Zealand.

That means lawmakers in Lower House consist of those who are directly elected by voters and those who are put forward by parties based on how well each party performs in the nationwide polls.

The new electoral formula is similar to 2019 election rules and also caps the number of seats bigger parties can win, preventing any one group from getting an absolute majority in the lower house. This is a blow to Pheu Thai Party, the biggest opposition party that won the most seats in the previous election.

Pheu Thai plans to challenge the parliament decision at the Constitutional Court and "do everything to stop this villainy,” it said in a statement.

Wednesday’s vote followed earlier amendments to the Thai constitution, which included increasing the number of constituency representatives to 400 from 350 and bringing back a two-ballot voting system with one for a candidate and the other for a party.

The changes are the latest moves by Thailand’s royal establishment to fine-tune election rules already heavily stacked in favor of the military and its allies, which won elections three years ago following a lengthy process to write a constitution following a coup in 2014. The government’s four-year term ends in early 2023.

Thai lawmakers and senators didn’t finish the second reading of the latest electoral law on Wednesday night. They will meet again for more joint sessions later this month to deliberate on the remaining nine clauses before voting in the third reading to officially pass the changes as law.

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