Constitutional Court authority in political crises ‘undemocratic’: Pheu Thai

The Pheu Thai Party says that the Constitutional Court should not have the authority to rule on political deadlocks because it is ‘undemocratic’.

According to Matichon Online, Phumtham Vejchayachai, Acting Secretary General of the Pheu Thai Party, on Sunday 17 January 2016, criticised the content of the new draft constitution on the authority of the Constitutional Court.

The Constitutional Drafting Committee (CDC) announced last week that the new charter will move the language of Article 7 of the 2007 Constitution to the section on the jurisdiction of the Constitutional Court instead.

In other words, the Constitutional Court will be given the authority to rule on cases that now fall under Article 7, which stipulates that when a situation arises where no provision of the constitution is applicable, the matter shall be decided in accordance with constitutional practices in a democratic form of government with the King as the head of state.

The Article is viewed as an emergency measure to break a political impasse.

According to Phumtham, the Constitutional Court should not have final say over political solutions for the country in times of political deadlock because the Court has no connection to the people as members of the Constitutional Court are not elected.

In a truly democratic system of governance, solutions for political crises should be left to the majority of people to decide, said the Pheu Thai Party Acting Secretary General.

Established under the 1997 Constitution with 15 members originally with jurisdiction over the constitutionality of parliamentary acts, the court was replaced by the Constitutional Tribunal after the 2006 coup d’état and was reintroduced by the 2007 Constitution.

Under the 2007 Charter, of the nine Constitutional Court judges, five are appointed by the Supreme Court and the Administrative Court. The remaining four are appointed by a committee of (1) the President of the Supreme Court, (2) the President of the Administrative Court, (3) the Speaker of Parliament, (4) the Leader of the Opposition in the House and (5) the President of one of the independent agencies.

Since its inception, the court has made several significant and controversial decisions, such as the acquittal of Thaksin Shinawatra for filing an incomplete declaration of assets with the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) in 2001, the dissolution in 2007 of the Thai Rak Thai political party, and in 2008 of the People’s Power Party, the predecessors of Pheu Thai, and the 2014 removal from office of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

When asked by Matichon if he agrees with the proposal to have mechanisms to prevent amendments to the new charter, Phumtham said that he disagrees, saying that the constitution should be allowed space for change to be coherent with changing political and social circumstances.

He concluded that people’s participation should be regarded as the key for changes in the constitutional draft.

Prior to the 2014 coup d’état, the anti-election protesters of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) led by Suthep Thaugsuban, called for the invocation of Article 7 to seek the King’s endorsement of a nominated interim Prime Minister if the Constitutional Court ruled against former PM Yingluck Shinawatra.

Worachet Pakeerut, law lecturer from Thammasat University and member of the Nitirat Group of progressive law academics, said that Article 7 is used to refer to constitutional conventions to fix loopholes in the written Constitution, as long as they are adopted democratically. It by no means allows a royally-appointed Prime Minister, he said.

Last week the CDC finished drafting 261 Articles, and is now working on the provisional and final chapter of the charter draft, which is expected to be completed this week.