May 16

A deceitful and irresponsible proposal

Writing in The Australian on 10 April 2006, (“Vigorous democracy does itself an injury”) Emeritus Professor Satyabrata Rai Chowdhuri laments Asia’s political paralysis. He says that the abrupt resignation of Thailand’s Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra is but another sign of a disturbing paradox: the more "vigorous" Asian democracy becomes, the more dysfunctional it is. It is strange that he points to one of the more stable Asian democracies. By all accounts, Thailand is stable because of the role of the monarch in maintaining that stability.

Professor Chowdhuri puts his finger on a significant constitutional weakness: “The problem in Asia often arises from what the French call "cohabitation" – an awkward arrangement by which a directly elected president must co-exist with a parliament controlled by a rival party or parties.”

This is the model which the republican movement now hopes will get them across the line. They opportunistically hope to ally themselves with the independent republicans who favour this model.  Some republicans will accept direct election if the reserve powers are removed, so that the president is powerless. This will increase even more the powers of the prime minister, which suits the political parties. The people would never accept this. So if a direct election model is ever put to the people, it will be the model which Professor Chowdhuri condemns. In that event the media will be divided and conservative republicans will vote to retain the present constitution. Both Professor Craven and Mr. Malcolm Turnbull warn that the defeat will be greater than in the 1999 landslide.

The republican movement hopes to over come this by getting the people to undermine the existing constitution by a vote of no confidence in the existing constitution. They think the people will then have nowhere to go but accept some sort of republic.

It is diffic.ult to conceive of a more deceitful and irresponsible proposal



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