Among other things, it allows for a non-elected member of parliament to become prime minister, a step back from the so-called People’s Constitution of 1997, which required an elected MP as prime minister. It was one of the major demands made by democratic movements in the 1980s and 1990s, and was aimed at preventing military interference in politics. The inclusion of this requirement in the 1997 constitution was considered a major advance in Thailand’s democratization.
The appointive Senate, dominated by the military, is to be granted more influence, giving them power to propose legislature and to scrutinize the profiles of nominated cabinet ministers before the prime minister submits the list for royal approval as well as vetting the profiles of the heads of all government organizations and publish the details.
It was an attempt to convert the Senate to an electoral body that was one of the factors bringing down Yingluck’s government last year.
The constitution will increase the number of senators to 200, half of which will be appointed and the rest “indirectly elected,” which means in effect that they are appointed. The first group will be comprised of various former leaders. The first are the 12 living ex-prime ministers, although Thaksin, in exile in Dubai, will not be one of them. Others are a small number of former House Speakers who are not members of a political party, and former court presidents.
Members of the second group will be former high-ranking government officials. The third will involve chairpersons and representatives of certified professional organizations, such as the Thai Chamber of Commerce and the Medical Council of Thailand. The civil sector, including agricultural cooperatives, labor unions and people’s organizations will form the fourth group.
A majority of the appointed senators will most likely represent the old power centers.
Candidates will first be “selected or screened” by unelected professional councils called a “National Morals Forum” with powers to weed out what the government deems to be unsuitable politicians. Considering that most existing professional councils in Thailand are allied with the Bangkok-based middle class and aligned with the conservative powers, this fifth group will in no way be able to claim that they represent broad-based participatory politics. In essence, the Senate will be dominated by the current power structure, a supportive mechanism for a royalist government and at the same time a destabilizing force against a popular-based government.
While supporters of the new draft document say it could allow for elections next year, and bring about the end of military rule, others question whether even a constitution this iron-clad will be enough to overcome the enmity of the millions of northern and rural voters who have been disenfranchised through the coup.