[JURIST] Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej [BBC report] formally signed the country's new constitution [draft text, PDF; JURIST report] into law Friday. The constitution, put forward by the military-backed interim government, was approved [JURIST report] in a national referendum last week. The interim government has praised the constitution as a step toward democracy, but supporters of deposed former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra [BBC profile] said the new constitution decreases populist influence and transfers more power to bureaucrats and the military. Over 56 percent of voters approved the draft constitution, but only 57.61 percent of the electorate, approximately 25 million people, participated in the vote.
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. The approval of the new constitution is expected to pave the way for general elections in December. AFP has more.