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Thai military outlines sweeping political reforms to NRC

The Nation/ANN | Thursday, Oct 9, 2014

Among its suggestions are direct election of PM, poll winners getting 50 per cent of votes and no statute of limitations for corruption by political office holders The Defence Ministry Permanent Secretary's Office yesterday suggested sweeping changes to the country's political sector to the National Reform Council as part of national reforms.

Among the proposals are direct election of the prime minister or appointment of the government head by the legislature, requiring election candidates to gain sufficient support in a "primary vote" in their constituencies and to be free of offences against the monarchy, and requiring election winners to gain at least 50 per cent of votes.

It has also proposed that the minimum voting age be raised to 20 from 18, and candidates for the legislature be 30-70 years old. At present, MP candidates are required to be at least 25 years old.

Copies of the written proposals were distributed to the new NRC members yesterday when they reported for work at Parliament.

The Defence Ministry claimed its proposals reflected opinions and suggestions collected from the public. It was the first agency to formally submit its reform proposals to the NRC.

In its 10-point proposal for reform of the political sector, the ministry suggested that the prime minister may be elected directly from MP candidates, voted by elected MPs, as is the case at present, or appointed by the legislature from the outside, as a non-politician.

Three types of legislatures have been suggested - single chamber, or only the House of Representatives; bicameral, or House of Representatives and Senate; or three chambers comprising the House of Representatives, Senate and People's Council for "better balance of power".

On political parties, it should be easy for people in all regions of the country to enter the political party system and political parties should be free from domination by wealthy financiers, as is the case at present.

On members of Parliament and senators, the candidates should be aged between 30 and 70, with no criteria for academic credentials, and they should not have committed offences against the monarchy.

MP candidates should not need to be a member of a political party, as is the case at present. Also, MP candidates should have the support of at least 200 eligible voters in their constituencies.

Proposal for run-off

MP candidates need to earn at least 50 per cent of votes to win an election. If no candidate captures the majority of votes, there should be a run-off between the two leading candidates.

Certain independent organisations involved in the checks and balances system for the executive branch should be restructured. They are the Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Political Office Holders, the Constitutional Court, the Election Commission and the National Anti-Corruption Commission.

There should be no statute of limitations in corruption cases involving political office holders, and there should be new courts to try cases involving elections and corruption.

The Defence Ministry also offered proposals for 10 other areas of reform. For legislative reform, it proposed amendments to 10 laws, including those on taxation, control of public demonstrations, disclosure of official information and city planning.

For economic reform, it called for progressive taxation on personal income, corporate income and land holdings in order to improve the efficiency and fairness of tax collection, among other changes.

On educational reform, the proposal calls for oversight of education to be shifted to local administrative organisations, and that free education should be provided for 15 years.

Altogether 41 members of the 250-strong NRC showed up at Parliament on the first day of work.

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