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Pheu Thai writes to NLA calling for review of bill's primary voting clauses

Jun 27. 2017
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By The Nation

The Pheu Thai Party submitted a formal letter to the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) on Tuesday calling for a review of some of the clauses in the controversial primary-voting section of the organic law on political parties, which it considered to be confused and inconsistent as well as leaving a loophole that could lead to power domination and fraud.

Primary voting – proposed for the first time as part of the newly passed political party law – calls for each party’s branches or representatives nationwide to hold a primary election to select MP candidates. 

The list would then be proposed to party executives and selection committees for shortlisting and endorsement.

It has become controversial as concerned parties are locking horns over its feasibility, with major political parties, including Pheu Thai, opposing the idea.

Pheu Thai argues that to empower 100 branch members and 50 provincial representatives to determine a constituency candidate could allow a loophole for any member wishing to be fielded to organise their supporters to vote for them in the primary round. 

This also poses an issue of inclusiveness, as 50-100 persons is considered to be relatively small, the party said in its letter to the NLA.

Pheu Thai said it supported the original clauses drafted by the Constitution Drafting Commission (CDC), whereby a constituency candidate would be selected by the party’s board and the selecting committee as proposed by party members. 

Such a system would be better in practice, while inclusiveness would also be secured, the leading party in the pre-coup coalition government said in its letter.

The letter, signed by Pheu Thai acting leader Police Lt-General Viroj Pao-in, came as a formal reaction to the organic draft bill regulating political parties, which was passed by the NLA on June 15.

Although Pheu Thai said it agreed in principle with the idea of boosting participation, it stressed that the feasibility of the process and the impact on a political party’s ability to field a candidate should also be taken into consideration.

It insisted that the previous version by the CDC would foster better candidate selection than the primary voting system.

Pheu Thai also pointed out that the internal primary election would add to the financial burden on political parties. 

In addition, it could result in parties struggling to meet an Election Commission deadline for candidate selection and the filing of complaints against selection, the letter read. 

Ultimately, if the EC rejected a candidate, the party in question would lose the opportunity to contest in that constituency, it said.

In addition, Pheu Thai raised concern over what is said was confusion and inconsistency in clauses between constituencies and branches as addressed in the bill and required for a primary election. 

This could lead to difficulties in practice, it said.

Pheu Thai therefore called in its letter for these clauses to be reviewed.

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