Fed up with politics, public shuns debate on charter changes

Bangkok (The Nation/ANN) - Nearly 60 per cent of respondents to a survey by Abac Poll said they did not follow Parliament's first reading of the constitutional amendment bill last week because they were bored with politics.

Abac poll surveyed 2,357 respondents aged 18 and over residing in 17 provinces in the Central region, North, South and Northeast.

Less than half said they watched or listened to the three-day debate broadcast between April 1-3. Only 7 per cent of respondents - self-described political junkies - said they followed the debate extensively. Another 26 per cent said they only partly followed the debate, while 59 per cent said they did not follow the debate at all, citing lack of time and boredom with politics.

Asked whether the government side clearly stated its case, 36 per cent of respondents said yes, 30 per cent said the government's performance was "acceptable", 23 per cent said the case was not clearly made, and 11 per cent weren't sure.

As for the opposition's performance, 43 per cent said it was clearly made, 29.5 per cent said it was acceptable, slightly over 19 per cent said the opposition did not make a clear case, and close to 9 per cent weren't sure.

Asked to rate the quality of arguments put forth by senators, 24 per cent said they were clearly made, 49 per cent said they were acceptable, and 16 per cent said they were unclear.

Overall, 51 per cent of respondents said the three-day first parliamentary reading was more argument than substantive debate. Some 49 per cent thought the proceedings were equal - part arguing and substantive debate.

Some 46 per cent said they benefited from following the debate, while 16 per cent said they gained very little from the experience.

Abac Poll commented that the heightened sarcasm deployed by politicians during the debate had alienated many people and led to feelings of apathy and a lack of public participation in politics, which the pollster said was not beneficial to democratic development. It urged MPs and senators to concentrate more on substance.

In a related development, the Pheu Thai Party met yesterday and expressed its intention to fully support the move to amend the charter. The party also expressed confidence that it would be able to explain everything to the Constitution Court.

Anusorn Iamsa-ad, Pheu Thai deputy spokesperson, said a petition filed by the so-called Group of 40 senators asking the court to rule on the constitutionality of the amendment move was not a cause for concern. In particular, the senators want the court to weigh the constitutionality of a proposed change to Article 68 that would require that all petitions to the Constitution Court pass through the Office of the Attorney-General first.

"We have no hidden agenda," said Anusorn. If the article is not amended, he said. "The Constitution Court will not be sacred and will end up as a dumpsite for petitions."

Meanwhile, Democrat Party MP Thepthai Senpong warned Senate Speaker Nikom Wairatpanij not to appear too eager to assist the government in its effort to amend the charter.

Nikom must try to maintain his neutrality, as befits one in his position, Thepthai said.

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