Regular New Mandala reader, Patiwat, has provided some useful comments on the post-coup draft constitution. Here they are:
Some brief thoughts on the constitution. In short, it’ll take us back to the 1970s/1980s. I’ll save time and focus only on the bad and neutral points:
– Weakening of the political party system will produce short-sighted unstable coalition governments. A number of changes drives this: the reduction of the number of votes required for a no-confidence debate falls from 40% to 25%; the increase in MP independence, which also allows MPs to more easily whore themselves to the highest bidder; the new constituency system, which seems designed to produce a multi-party outcome.
– 2 terms/8 year term limit. When combined with the above clauses that are intended to produce short unstable coalition governments, the 2 term limit could cause some short-sighted corruption prone policies. I’d prefer just an 8 year limit. (Sec 167)
– Appointed senators is just absurd. How the heck are appointed senators supposed to be more independent than elected ones? (Sec 106)
– Regional party lists. The old system of nation-wide party lists favored national parties which could put together a strong list based on politicians with nation-wide appeal. The regional party list system means that a party can focus on regional candidates, e.g., the Democrats could put its super-stars on a southern party list and forget about the rest of the nation. To me, this somewhat defeats the original purpose of the party list, which was to balance provincial/regional interests with the national interest.
– Ethics code ambiguity. The draft mentions a code of ethics, and says that ethical violations could result in removal from office, but doesn’t give any more details. So what exactly defines an ethical violation? Will calling for an election in the face of protests from hundreds of thousands be deemed unethical (the opposition certainly claimed so last year)? (Section 270)
– Legitimizing rebellion as a means of gaining power. This will come back to haunt all of us. What happens when, not if, the unity of the junta falls apart?
– No 5% minimum cut-off for party list candidates + Fewer party list candidates. The lack of a 5% cut-off would mean that fringe parties could easily get party-list seats. However, since there are fewer part-list seats, this might be negated. I haven’t figured out how they’ll do seat rounding (i.e., whether they’ll continue to use the d’Hondt system).
– NCCC will focus only on high-ranking politicians and civil servants. Fine, this will reduce their workload. But who is going to look after medium-level politicians and civil servants? I don’t think provincial prosecutors are the best people to do this (Sec 249).
I’ll mention one good point though: the 100,000 signature minimum to start constitutional amendment procedures. This way, constitutional crises will be less of an excuse for coups. You don’t like the rules? Just start a petition to change them. No need for coups. That wont stop the military from interfering, of course, but still…