Government's charter change bill sails through 3rd reading

The coalition government’s charter amendment bill sailed through the third reading at a joint sitting of parliament on Friday, with the requisite support of more than one-third of the senators.

Parliament President Chuan Leekpai on Friday chaired the joint meeting, called to vote on  amendments to Sections 83 and 91 of the constitution.

The legislation restores the two-ballot electoral system - one vote for a constituency MP and a separate ballot for the voter's preferred party. It also raises the number of electorates from 350 to 400 and cuts the number of party list MPs from 150 to 100.

Two hours after the calling of names to vote began, the result was announced at 11.50am.

 A total of 472 parliamentarians - 323 MPs and 149 senators – voted to support the bill.  Thirty-three – 23 MPs and 10 senators –voted against it.

A total of 187 votes – 127 MPs and 66 senators – abstained.

To pass the bill, there were three conditions - the bill must receive support from more half the total, or 367 votes of MPs and senators, the support of at least 20% of opposition MPs, or  43, and at least one-third of the Senate, or 84.

The next procedure is for the bill to be forwarded for royal endorsement in 15 days.

Section 83 currently has 350 constituency MPs and 150 list MPs. The bill raises the number of constituency MPs to 400 and cuts the number of list MPs to 100.

For Section 91, the bill replaces the existing complicated formula to calculate the number of list MPs for parties with a previous and simple calculation, basing the number of list MPs proportionately on the number of votes that a party receives from preferred-party ballots.

In the run-up to the vote the fate of the bill had been uncertain, with the support of senators liable to go either way. 

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