The Thai Election Commissioner has confirmed the junta can legally dissolve parliament to resolve gridlock during the process of selecting a new Prime Minister, but questions whether such drastic measures would be worth it.
On 2 October 2016, Somchai Srisuthiyakorn, the Election Commissioner of Thailand (ECT), told media that it would be technically possible for the junta to use Section 44 of the Interim Constitution to dissolve the House of Representatives if the process of selecting a new Prime Minister drags on for too long, Thai News Agency reported.
The controversial plan was proposed by Wissanu Krue-ngam, the deputy junta head and advisor to the National Council for Peace and Order, on 30 September. He added that the possibility of such gridlock, however, is rather slim.
According to Somchai, the proposal is one legal course of action, though it may be neither the most cost-effective nor the most efficacious.
“The dissolution of the parliament and a new election held afterwards would cost about 3 billion baht and it is not guaranteed that the dissolution would lead to the selection of a new PM by the House of Representatives,” Thai News Agency quoted Somchai as saying.
He concluded that it is up to the government to decide if the 3 billion baht required to dissolve parliament would be worth spending in the event of parliamentary gridlock.
On 28 September, the Constitutional Court ruled that the final version of the junta-backed draft charter must provide the junta-appointed senate the right to initiate the process to installing an ‘outsider’ PM (a PM who is not a member of the parliament). The verdict came after the Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC), the junta-appointed charter drafters, submitted its latest draft to the Court on 30 August for final approval.
The ruling’s implication is that the junta-appointed senators can override even a majority vote from MPs to endorse a PM, increasing Thailand’s chances of having an outsider-PM. Under the ruling, the majority vote can be overridden through the approval of 250 votes out of 750 from both houses sitting jointly — a proportion the senate can easily achieve if it wins support from small parties.
Under a provisional clause in the new constitution, Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, the junta leader and Prime Minister, will maintain Section 44 of the Interim Constitution — which gives the junta absolute power — even after the new constitution is promulgated.
Somchai Srisuthiyakorn, Election Commissioner of Thailand (ECT) (Photo from Somchai's Facebook account)