11 July 2024

A joint meeting of the Senate and House adjourned without convening yesterday (Wednesday) due to the absence of a quorum, after a number of senators and MPs boycotted the session, apparently in an attempt to prevent the passage of an electoral bill amendment, to define 500 as the basis for the calculation of the allocation of party-list seats.

It was the third such incident in the joint meeting in this parliamentary session.

MPs from Palang Pracharath, the core government party, opposition Pheu Thai party and the Thai Economic party were among those who boycotted the meeting, forcing the president of the parliament, Chuan Leekpai, to adjourn the meeting.

The electoral bill amendment was initiated by minority members of the House scrutiny committee. It has until August 15th, the deadline for its third reading by the parliament, otherwise it will be dropped automatically.

While waiting for a quorum, Senator Chalermchai Fuangkhon proposed that parliament president, Chuan Leekpai, ask Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to dissolve the House, but this was rejected outright by Chuan, who jokingly said that parliament was built at a cost of about 20 billion baht and should not be dissolved.

He pleaded with MPs and senators to be patient, saying that it is normal for some legislators to miss meetings.

Another senator, Somchai Sawangkarn, proposed a meeting of the chief whips of the government, opposition and senators be held to decide whether another joint meeting could be held on August 9th or 10th, but Chuan said it will not be possible as the Senate is due to meet on August 8th and 9th.

Democrat Party Spokesman Ramet Rattanachaweng said, however, that he believes the electoral amendment bill will pass its final reading in parliament by the August 15th deadline, adding that, if the amendment is approved by the Election Commission, it will be returned to parliament to be vetted again regarding its constitutionality.

The use of 500 as basis in the calculation of party-list seats is supported by small parties because they stand a better chance of being allocated seats, even though they may not win a single constituency seat.

Big parties, such as Palang Pracharath and Pheu Thai, favour the use of 100 as the basis of calculation, as they stand to gain.

Several political observers have commented, however, that there is not much difference between the two methods of calculation.