EC given power to control a caretaker government
The Constitution Drafting Assembly (CDA) gave on Monday the Election Commission (EC) power to control a caretaker government concerning major decisions in a bid to limit the chances of power abuse to benefit its members' election campaigns.
Haunted by ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's record of overwhelming power as caretaker premier for seven months, the CDA decided that history should not repeat itself.
The CDA agreed the EC should have a final say on the caretaker government's appeals for major issues, which could benefit election campaigns of the government's parties.
They include the appointment or dismissal of state or state enterprise officials, approval of government payment in advance, and use of government resources or personnel to directly or indirectly affect the election results.
During the debate, CDA member Pichien Amnajworaprasert asked for a change in the draft. He said Cabinet members, whose term was ended by the House dissolution, do not need to stay on as caretaker ministers because they could abuse power to benefit their election campaigns, including approving projects to get "under the table" commissions.
Instead, permanent secretaries to each ministry should take control of the daytoday administration until the new government assumed power, he said.
CDA member Charan Pakdithanakul, as member of the Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC), believed the CDC draft was good enough to handle Pichien's concern.
He said the permanent secretaries were not political experts and could not handle the government in transition. Moreover, as fulltime state officials they did not have the authority to implement state policies [as elected politicians do], he noted.
Finally, Pichien accepted the CDC draft.
Yesterday's debate focused on the sevenmonth period since Thaksin dissolved the House in February 24 until the military staged the coup of September 19 last year.
Amid growing pressure for his resignation, Thaksin ruled out the appeal. He said the 1997 charter stated that the prime minister should take care of the government until the new Cabinet assumed power.
As the Constitution Court cancelled the April 2 poll, his caretaker Cabinet continued in the post. It approved an annual reshuffle of highranking state officials ahead of the new poll scheduled on October 15. Moreover, some government projects for rural areas were approved under the caretaker government.
Opposition parties cried foul over the "abuse of power", which they alleged that Thaksin had employed to boost the popularity of himself and the Thai Rak Thai Party ahead of the upcoming poll.
Meanwhile, the CDA postponed a debate on a condition that the government needs to ask Parliament's approval before concluding a Free Trade Agreement with other countries.
Its members could not come to a conclusion.
by Weerayut Chokchaimadon