By PRAPASRI OSATHANON
THE PROPOSED primary voting system could violate the charter’s principles as it will obstruct many parties from nominating MP |candidates in constituencies, Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva said yesterday.
The former premier made the statement in an open letter to the Constitution Drafting Commission as part of the CDC’s consideration on the bill draft passed by the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) on June 15.
The system, as stipulated in the political party draft bill, would require parties to have at least 100 provincial branches or at least 50 representatives available to contest constituencies in elections and require party members to vote for MP candidates.
Designed by the Legislative Assembly, the system was justified as |giving more authority to party members and preventing financiers from influencing parties’ choices of candidates.
However, Abhisit said it would be difficult to implement for parties, especially the smaller ones, which would have to set up branches or representatives in all of their constituencies.
He added that the new Constitution was designed to make every vote count because the mixed member apportionment system would be used to calculate each party’s representation in the Lower House, meaning that a party’s nationwide vote tally would be taken into consideration, not just its success in winner-take-all constituencies.
However, the primary voting system violated the charter’s principles as it would prevent many |parties from contesting in every locality, thereby preventing people in those areas from expressing their political will, the former prime |minister said.
The draft stipulates that voting results will be forwarded to parties’ headquarters for a final decision, but they would have to repeat the primary process if they could not come to a decision.
The NLA submitted the draft to the charter drafters, the Election Commission and the Constitutional Court, who might consider setting up a joint committee to vet the bill draft if they agree that it should be reconsidered.
In his letter, Abhisit added that the voting system would consume time and could overlap with the schedules of the general election and by-elections, which normally allowed a limited number of days for candidates to campaign.
It would also be necessary for parties’ boards to maintain power to vet decent MPs, he said, as the parliamentary system depended on the parties’ role to accommodate representatives in the Lower House.
Citing the recent political party and election bills, Abhisit added that parties had already been encouraged to engage member participation.
For instance, the laws required parties to hold elections during major meetings to seek members for their candidate-nominating and policy-making committees. Candidate nominations must also be based on the opinions from local party branches, he said.
Considering that the primary voting system would highlight the role of party members, Abhsit said he worried that such requirements would be impractical even for the Democrat Party, which has 200 local branches nationwide, the most of any party.
For instance, he said, it would be hard for parties to extend their member base. People are concerned that being party members would mean assuming additional burdens, and the new bill’s stipulation would require members to pay annual fees to their parties, which would further discourage membership, he said.
The draft also stipulates |conditions for parties to access the government political party development fund, which would |discourage parties from operating locally, he said.
The primary voting system would also make it hard for parties to support outsiders or newcomers in elections, he added.
“I’m not saying that I don’t agree with the concepts of the annual fee requirement or primary vote,” he said.
“But increasing member participation in parties must be based on the actual situation. The Democrats are a major party, yet we can already see many potential obstacles.
“Other parties, especially the newcomers, would have it worse than we do,” he said.