Thailand plans for first post-coup Senate election, referendum


BANGKOK: Thailand will start the process to elect new senators next month, in an exercise that will make the upper house more representative than the outgoing lawmakers who were appointed by the military.

The country’s cabinet approved the Election Commission’s plan for multi-level Senate elections in a meeting on Tuesday (April 23), Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin (pic) told reporters in a briefing. The poll body will on May 13 share the proposed timeline for receiving applications and holding of the polls planned for June 9-26, he said.

The new upper house will have 200 lawmakers as opposed to the 250 in the existing setup. While the election is the first since the 2014 coup when the military decided on the successful candidates, the public would have no role in picking the new senators.

Interested candidates aged at least 40 will need to submit their applications under one of 20 social and professional categories and go through a complex "self-selection” process.

The candidates, divided into 20 groups, would be voting for each other in their group and across groups - and also at different levels from local to provincial and national - until there are only 10 left in each group.

The Senate in its new avatar won’t have the power to elect a prime minister but broadly retain its other roles, including endorsing legislation passed by the lower house elected by the public.

Results of the Senate election are expected to be announced on July 2, according to Srettha. The new Senate will have a five-year term and will likely be set up in time to join the bicameral parliament when it reconvenes on July 9.

The cabinet also approved a framework to hold three national referendums to amend the military-backed constitution, one of the key election pledges by Srettha’s ruling Pheu Thai Party. Previous efforts to rewrite the junta-era charter has failed as such a proposal requires support from at least a third of the Senate to pass.

In the first referendum, Thais will vote on whether they want a new charter to be drafted without any changes to the first two chapters, which include general provisions and sections related to the king, according to government spokesman Chai Wacharonke.

The first of three votes will take place sometime between July 21 and Aug 21, and will cost 3.2 billion baht (US$863.5 million) to organise, Chai told reporters after the cabinet meeting. - Bloomberg

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