Opinion & Analysis

Thai Senate Selection: What you need to know

The term of junta-appointed Senate is set to expire on May 11 and a selection process of the new Senate will take place within the next two months. Why it matters? Purawich Watanasukh in Bangkok explains.

Over the past five years, the junta-appointed Senate has been a controversial body since it was granted the power to vote for the prime minister. It played a crucial role in choosing the prime minister after the 2019 and 2023 Elections. However, its term is set to expire on May 11. A selection of the new Senate is expected to take place between late May and early July 2024. Here is what you need to know.

1. It is a selection, not an election

The new Senate consists of 200 senators who will be selected from 20 occupational groups with 10 members from each group. Anybody who wants to participate in voting needs to be registered as a candidate. It means that the selection process is exclusive to the registered candidates, and not open to all Thai voters. The eligible candidates must be at least 40 years old with 10 years of expertise, though unclear defined, in the field they apply for. Moreover, they need to pay 2,500 baht for a registration fee to become a candidate, as well as a voter in this process.

Sappaya-Sapasathan, in Bangkok, is the current meeting place of Thailand's National Assembly (composed of a Senate and a House of Representatives). Image: Supanut Arunoprayote/Wikimedia Commons

2. The world’s most complicated selection process

The first round of the selection process will start at the district level. At first, the candidates vote among themselves within the same occupational group. The top 5 candidates will proceed to the second round, in which they are randomly mixed and can only vote for another candidate in a different occupational group until the top 3 candidates are ranked from each group and advance to the provincial level. The same process is repeated at the provincial level until the top 2 candidates are ranked and progress to the national level. At the national level, the top 10 candidates who receive the most votes from 20 occupational groups will be selected as the new 200 senators. The details of the selection process can be found on the Thai NGO iLaw.

3. Possible timeline

As the term of the junta-appointed Senate is set to expire on May 11, the announcement of the candidate registration is expected to take place by late May and early June. After it is completed, the selection process from the district to provincial and national levels is expected to occur by late June and be completed by early July. By mid-July, at the earliest, the newly selected 200 senators will be officially announced by the Election Commission of Thailand.

4. The new Senate can no longer vote for the prime minister

The most controversial power of the current junta-appointed Senate is the power to vote for the prime minister with the House of Representatives for 5 years. It is a power in a transitional period stipulated in the 2017 Constitution, which was drafted after the 2014 Coup. However, the new Senate will no longer have such power. In the next election, the voting of the prime minister will be determined in the House of Representatives, which consists of 500 elected MPs.

5. But it still possesses a significant power

Although it can no longer vote for the prime minister, the Senate still possesses a significant power which can shape the Thai political landscape in the coming years. There are two key powers that the Senate still holds. First, the power to endorse the nominations of the independent agencies, whose term is also set to expire in the next few years. These agencies have been heavily criticized by the public due to their involvement in political conflict in Thai politics over the past decade. For example, the Election Commission of Thailand, the National Anti-Corruption Commission, and the Constitutional Court. Second, the Senate still has the power to approve the constitutional amendment. Apart from a majority of parliamentary votes, any constitutional amendment must receive one-third of the senators’ vote in the first and final readings to be successful. This is the reason why the military-backed 2017 Constitution has been almost impossible to amend. The result of the Senate selection process will determine the politics of constitutional amendments again in Thai politics in the next 5 years.

- Asia Media Centre