Thailand headed for acceptance of military-backed Constitution

An election commission official displays a ballot paper to the media while counting votes during a constitutional referendum vote at a polling station in Bangkok on Aug 7, 2016.
An election commission official displays a ballot paper to the media while counting votes during a constitutional referendum vote at a polling station in Bangkok on Aug 7, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS

Thailand on Sunday (Aug 7) voted to accept a draft Constitution that gives the military greater influence over a future elected government.

According to live updates from the Election Commission of Thailand, with 91.91 per cent of the vote counted at 7.15pm (8.15 pm Singapore time), 61.42 per cent were cast in favour of the draft charter.

The official results of this Charter, to be confirmed in the next two days, would mean that Thailand is now headed for a general election slated next year (2017).

Authors of the draft Constitution had promised it will clamp down on corruption and weed out political excesses, but its critics decry as a way to cement military power without the need for future coups.

The 105-page document gives the ruling junta the power to pick almost all 250 senators during the transitory five-year period. Six seats in the Upper House will be reserved for senior security officials. While the future prime minister need not come from an election, the future elected government will have to abide by a "national strategy plan", or risk being impeached.

The draft Charter is designed to be difficult to amend once it is enacted.

A second question on the ballot paper yesterday asked each voter if he agreed with having senators join the elected House of Representatives in choosing a prime minister - in effect opening the possibility for the military to install a non-elected premier of its choice. At 7.15pm on Sunday, 58.12 per cent of voters had said yes to this clause.

Voting on Sunday proceeded peacefully, in stark contrast to chaotic scenes two years ago when street protesters allied with Thailand's royalist elites sabotaged an election that was poised to be dominated by the incumbent Puea Thai party. The paralysed caretaker government was ousted by a coup in May that year, and the then Constitution suspended.

The current military government operates under an interim Charter which gives it absolute powers.