By KRIS BHROMSUTHI
FRAUD CASES TO BE HANDLED BY COURT OF APPEAL, SELECTION PROCESS REVAMPED
CONSTITUTION Drafting Committee (CDC) members yesterday inserted an article into the new charter that would greatly reduce the power and responsibility of the Election Commission in comparison with the provisions of the previous charter.
The role of the EC would be limited to mainly regulating elections and investigating them, in addition to its task of promoting and raising public awareness on democratic participation and engagement.
The responsibility of organising an election would be transferred mainly to the Interior Ministry, with support from other ministries and the public sector.
Furthermore, the EC would no longer deliberate and rule on electoral-fraud cases, since that duty has been handed to the Courts of Appeal, and local-election fraud cases will be handled by the regional Appeal Court. General electoral-fraud cases will be examined and ruled over by the central Appeal Court.
The EC is one of the most controversial independent organisations. It attracts wide public scrutiny and criticism for its partiality and tendency for the organisation to be politicised by group holding power at any given time.
The most notorious cases were the Criminal Court’s sentencing of former Election Commission chairman Wassana Permlarp along with other EC members. They received four years in jail and were disqualified from electoral voting for 10 years for conduct that provided a Thai Rak Thai party advantage in the 2006 general election.
Another case was when the EC, at first, refused to hold a general election after the Pheu Thai government dissolved Parliament in late 2013, this time showing partiality towards the People’s Democratic Reform Committee.
Charter drafters seem to hope to have solved such problems by significantly reducing the EC’s roles and responsibilities and transferring them to the Interior Ministry and Courts of Appeal.
The selection committee for election commissioners has also been modified. Political parties, a people’s assembly, the cabinet, and academics will now play a part in sending their own representatives into the selection committee to nominate commissioners.
A selection committee would be chosen by the governing political party, while two more would be chosen from the opposition party.
Another committee member would be chosen by the cabinet, while university deans and a people’s assembly would each choose two members. The Election Commission, however, still has some important roles to play. These include regulating political parties’ accounting during the election period, which includes campaign spending and donations received from donors.
The EC would also have the responsibility of submitting electoral-fraud cases to the Courts of Appeal for further consideration.