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Primary voting rules need changes to help smaller parties: drafters

Jul 09. 2017
CDC member Udom Ratamarit
CDC member Udom Ratamarit
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THE CONSTITUTION Drafting Commission (CDC) has decided to retain a primary voting system in the political party bill but the draft will be revised to allow smaller parties a better chance |to contest elections.

CDC member Udom Ratamarit said yesterday that the primary voting system – designed for selection of election candidates for political parties – should not affect the general election as a whole. 

The draft legislation, approved by the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) last month, has become controversial because it will require all parties to conduct primary polls before contesting general elections.

Politicians are concerned that such a process would not only consume time but also bar small-scale parties from contesting, as they would be required to have enough members to cast votes in every constituency they contest.

The CDC informed the NLA that the draft law should be revised. The legislative assembly is expected to set up a joint committee of representatives from the NLA, the CDC and the Election Commission (EC) to further vet the bill before the NLA will have another round of deliberation.

Up to that point, Udom said, the NLA should not have reasons to reject the to-be-vetted draft. “The NLA is the one approving this concept of primary voting. It will be ironic if they vote to reject this very draft,” he said.

Last week, the law’s drafters met NLA member General Somjet Boonthanom, who is also president of the NLA committee vetting the current draft, on what points in the bill could be fixed before the CDC proposes them to a joint vetting committee to be set up later.

They agreed to retain the primary voting system as well as a requirement that only party members will be able to cast votes for MP candidates of each party.

However, their view is that to shorten the primary voting period, party boards and selection committees should be allowed to make consensus choices on some MP candidates, whether constituency or party-list, in case |two or more candidates gain an equal number of votes in primary voting.

The original bill draft stipulates that the whole primary voting procedure has to be redone if certain choices of MP candidates cannot be settled.

To make the system more flexible for political parties, it should also no longer be mandatory for party leaders to be placed as the first party-list MP candidate, Udom said.

The CDC is also of the view that it is not necessary for parties to have members in all contesting constituencies. In order to compete in all constituencies of each province, it should be sufficient for parties to either have provincial branches or more than 100 members in that province, Udom said.

Each party should also be responsible for managing its own primary votes, including receiving complaints and dealing with any corruption. Party boards and leaders found neglecting that responsibility may face punishment of Bt10,000 fine or six-month imprisonment, the CDC thought.

The CDC was also considering measures to punish acts related to vote buying and selling during primary voting procedures. While the CDC has not yet taken a detailed position on this, they believe punishment should be on par with those committed during a general election, he said.

The EC should not have power to warn or suspend any candidate during the primary voting process, added Udom.


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