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Last Updated: Wednesday, 18 April 2007, 16:32 GMT 17:32 UK
Draft of Thai constitution agreed
By Jonathan Head
BBC News, Bangkok

Thai PM Surayud Chulanont
Interim PM Surayud has promised elections by the end of the year
The first draft of a new constitution for Thailand has been agreed by a committee appointed by the military council that led last September's coup.

The draft will be presented to the public later this month before being put to a referendum.

Many of the details agreed by the 35-member drafting committee have already been made public.

One of the draft constitution's main objectives appears to be to limit the power of elected politicians.

It could perhaps be best described as the anti-Thaksin constitution.

It would limit prime ministers to just two four-year terms in office, reduce members of parliament from 500 to 400, and cut the number of senators from 200 to 160, who will now be appointed, not elected.

The number of MPs needed to introduce a motion of no-confidence in the prime minister has also been reduced, from two-thirds, to just a quarter.

Provoke criticism

Those involved in the drafting say the intention is to prevent the kind of abuses of power carried out by former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Mr Thaksin was accused of using his enormous personal wealth to buy senators and to cripple the functioning of the independent bodies that had been set up under the old constitution as checks and balances.

The most controversial proposal - to have a non-elected prime minister - has been dropped.

But this draft is bound to provoke strong criticism that it is far less democratic than the constitution the generals threw out when they seized power last year.

The interim government has promised to put the draft to a referendum and hold elections before the end of the year.

If the constitution is rejected, those elections could be delayed by many months.

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