[JURIST] The Election Commission of Thailand [official website] on Monday certified the results [PDF text, in Thai; Nation report] of Sunday's constitutional referendum [JURIST report], reporting that 56.69 percent of voters approved the draft constitution put forth by the country's military-backed interim government. Although the measure passed, experts predict that the sizable vote against the constitution - 41.37 percent voted "no" - means that the current regime will face challenges in the upcoming December elections. Approximately 25 million people, just 57.61 percent of the electorate, participated in the vote.
The new new constitution [JURIST report; draft text, PDF] replaces Thailand's 1997 charter. Interim Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont [BBC profile], who came to power after last September's military coup [JURIST report], had urged voters to participate in the referendum, calling it a way for the people to assert their rights and help decide Thailand's future. Anti-coup activists and supporters of deposed former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra [BBC profile], however, said the new constitution decreases populist influence and transfers more power to bureaucrats and the military. Under the new constitution, Thai prime ministers will be limited to two terms in office and will be subject to easier impeachment. The Thai House of Representatives will be reduced from 500 seats to 400 seats, 320 of which will be directly elected and 80 appointed from party lists. Direct elections for members of the Senate will be abolished, with national and provisional committees composed of bureaucrats and judicial officials instead appointing the 150 senators. Reuters has more.