By KAS CHANWANPEN
JUST TWO DAYS after the Election Commission (EC) began accepting applications, a record-breaking 6,400 candidates from 60 parties have registered in the run-up to the long-awaited national polls.
An expert put the huge turnout to the new election system – Mixed-Member Apportionment (MMA) – saying parties are fielding as many candidates as possible in order to gain votes.
As of yesterday, 6,474 candidates had registered with the EC – more than twice the number of candidates who had registered in the 2011 election, which saw 2,422 MP candidates.
The agency’s secretary-general, Jarungvith Phumma, said 546 individuals had registered yesterday, while more than 5,000 had applied on Monday – the very first day of registration. However, not many parties have handed in the names of their party-list and PM candidates.
Parties have until 4.30pm on Friday to submit their list of candidates in all categories. Jarungvith, however, advised parties to not leave things to the last minute, especially since every application would need to be verified.
So far, he said, only four parties had submitted all three lists – namely the Shinawatra-camp parties Pheu Thai and Thai Raksa Chart, and anti-junta parties Seri Ruam Thai and New Palang Dharma.
Pheu Thai’s list of PM candidates included its de facto leader Khunying Sudarat Keyuraphan, the formidable former transport minister Chatchart Sitthipan and legal expert Chaikasem Nitisiti.
The party also submitted 97 names for party-list MPs, which showed that Pheu Thai was pinning its hopes on senior figures, such as party leader Viroj Pao-in, secretary-general Phumtham Wechayachai, Sudarat and Chaikasem.
However, Chatchart was not included in the MP list, even though he is very popular among urban middle-class voters.
Chatchart affirmed his loyalty to the party yesterday and hinted he might run in the Bangkok gubernatorial elections in the future.
Meanwhile, political scientist Wanwichat Boonprong from Rangsit University yesterday put the record-breaking number of applications to the new electoral system.
“Small and medium-sized parties are now fielding candidates in more areas because this is a chance for them to gain votes that can count towards party-list MPs,” he explained. “We can see parties, such as Bhumjaithai, fielding more candidates in Bangkok, when previously their focus was outside the capital.”
However, he said, for Pheu Thai it is different. It is set to win in many constituencies, which will only reduce its number of party-list MPs. Hence, it has to field fewer candidates and use a proxy party such as Thai Raksa Chart, to compete in the party-list MP contest, he said.
Under the new election method, even when a candidate loses in a constituency, the votes they get are counted and calculated for the party’s share of seats in the House of Representatives.
So, if a party’s candidates in all 350 constituencies get 1,000 votes each, that would total 350,000 votes for the party, which could translate to as many as seven seats for party-list MPs, Wanwichit explained. Hence, most parties were likely to field as many candidates as possible, he said.
Also, since the new law limits the amount of money that can be used for campaigns, all parties – small and large – have an equal chance to introduce themselves to the voters, he added. This is why smaller |parties have become hopeful, he said.
Meanwhile, other closely watched parties such as the Democrat and Phalang Pracharat have yet to hand in their list of hopefuls.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, a potential candidate of Phalang Pracharat, said yesterday that he was still considering the party’s policy proposals, adding he had until Friday to make a final decision.
Earlier, it was said that Prayut was still on the fence because he was not very happy about the party’s choice of list MPs. Prayut reportedly wants politicians facing legal charges to be removed from the list. However, the coup leader denied the report yesterday.
“I haven’t seen the list,” he told reporters. “It has nothing to do with me. They invited me to be their PM candidate, but the list is the party’s responsibility. Now, I’m not related to any political party.”