11 July 2024

The bill to amend the organic law on the election of MPs, which seeks to return to using 500 seats as the basis for the calculation of party-list seats in Parliament, instead of the current 100, appears doomed after a number of MPs and senators stayed away from the session, leaving the joint sitting without a quorum.

Former election commissioner and a member of the parliamentary panel scrutinising the bill, Somchai Srisutthiyakorn, said in his Facebook post that the meeting collapsed because 22 legislators were absent.

There was, however, no clear sign that the joint sitting would collapse, because several MPs managed to debate the bill.

Pheu Thai MP for Surin province, Manit Sangphum, said that legislators who are supportive of the change might want the MPs of the “excess” small parties to return to parliament after the next election.

He said he thinks that strings might have been pulled behind the scenes to encourage some MPs to ensure the calculation method does not change.

Manit’s reference to the small parties prompted Ravee Maschamadol, a party-list MP and leader of the New Palangdharma party, to protest. Deputy president of parliament, Pornpetch Wichitcholchai, who presided over the meeting, then asked Manit to withdraw his allegedly offensive remark.

After the debate, Pornpetch sounded division bell to call MPs and senators into the chamber to identify themselves. 367 did so, which is three more than the number required for a quorum.

Pheu Thai MP Julapun Amornvivat demanded a head count by roll call, to make sure that no ID cards had been inserted on behalf of others who were not present in the chamber. 403 were counted and Pornpetch ordered the start of voting on the bill.

As the voting was under way, however, it became apparent that several lawmakers had left the chamber, prompting another head count, which resulted in there being 22 short of a quorum.

The meeting was adjourned at 4.17pm and there was no vote.

It is not known when the next joint sitting can be held, but the bill must pass its final reading by August 15th, otherwise it will be dropped automatically for failing to meet the 180-day limit.