Thailand's next general election could be held by February 2017, four months earlier than planned, Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam yesterday told ambassadors, diplomats and representatives from international organisations from 66 countries.
Wissanu said he had laid out a "6-4-6-4 road map to democracy", giving six months to draft the new constitution, four months to hold a referendum on it, six months to write organic laws to support the charter and four months to campaign for the election.
However, this 20-month process may be deemed too lengthy, so the government might shorten it to 16-18 months, he said.
Pornpetch Wichitcholchai, president of the National Legislative Assembly, said he had persuaded five NLA members to represent the assembly on the new Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC). They are Somkit Lertpaithoon, Klanarong Chanthick, Pornthip Jala, Chukiert Ratanachaichan and Taweesak Suthakavatin.
The NLA members who sat on the old CDC should not be reappointed, he said.
Wallop Tangkananurak, an NLA member, said only three members of the legislature would secure CDC seats. They would be handpicked by Pornpetch rather than selected via an NLA vote.
Tuang Untachai, another NLA member, supported the move to amend the junta-imposed provisional charter for greater clarity on the number of votes needed to pass the plebiscite on the permanent constitution. The currently obscure clauses could be misinterpreted to mean eligible voters who cast their ballots and not eligible voters.
There is a big gap between the sizes of the two groups, which raises concerns that the charter may not be legitimate if too few people vote for it.
It is also important to amend the interim charter to state what will happen if the new draft charter gets rejected in the referendum, Tuang said.
"I suggest that the charter allow lawmakers to incorporate the contents of the 2007 charter, which has a strong anti-corruption mechanism, and the rejected draft charter, which has good reform points," he said.
Chusak Sirinil, chief of the Pheu Thai Party's legal team, said he did not mind if parts of the charters of 1997 and 2007 were used, since people knew the strengths and weaknesses of both versions. However, the charter written by the CDC was never implemented because it was rejected from the beginning, so it should not be put to use at all.
Both of the past two charters had the same election system that led to a strong government, so this part should be incorporated into the new charter, Chusak said.
The 2007 charter was widely accepted for its system of checks and balances, which was an improvement over the 1997 charter, but the check mechanism as proposed by the CDC's draft charter was a step backwards, he said.
There should be no non-elected prime minister, since that concept goes against democratic development, he added.
The balance of power among the government, the courts and Parliament must be linked to the people, Chusak said.
"The new charter should include rules that are hurdles for people wanting to enter or rejoin the political arena. Any new organisation that may create divisions and conflicts should not be established."
The new CDC should not take more than three months to complete its work, since it already has charter models to refer back to, he added.