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Thumbs down for PM forming party: poll

Sep 03. 2016
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MOST people surveyed by Super Poll object to an idea to have Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha set up a military-dominated political party.
Of the 1,153 people surveyed, 62 per cent disagreed with the proposal to have Prayut set up his own political party and enter politics and 74 per cent disagreed with an idea to have the Interior Ministry assist the Election Commission in holding elections.
Another 56 per cent believe it is time for a Cabinet reshuffle, 55 per cent said Prayut should have a minor Cabinet reshuffle and 44 per cent said it should be a major change.
Dusit Poll carried out a survey on the same topic of Prayut setting up a military-dominated party. 
The results showed that 69 per cent believe the idea is just “testing the water” or getting Prayut to respond to the proposal and 65 per cent believe that setting up the party would allow Prayut to be a legitimate PM.
Sixty per cent believed the idea was a political ploy and 58 per cent said it was interesting news and the respondents were curious as to whether the PM would do so.
Among the reasons why they supported Prayut having his own party, 71 per cent said Prayut could have legitimacy in a democracy to run the country and 68 per cent said he would have a political party to operate under and have a political base. 
About 62 per cent said the idea would give voters more choice, and lead to stiffer political competition.
However, 77 per cent of respondents said the idea would make Prayut a sitting duck for his critics because he would be accused of extending his power and backtracking on his statements that he would not attempt to remain in power.
About 67 per cent said the idea may lead to political conflicts and political disturbances if it materialised, while 64 per cent said the party would be perceived as a military-nominated party and may have more power and privileges than other parties.
In a related development, lawmakers involved in drafting the general election bill have softened their stance and agreed to review a proposal to have the Interior Ministry assist the Election Commission in holding the poll.
The proposal from the National Reform Steering Assembly’s political reform committee also calls for the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) to play a controlling role in ensuring peace and order during the first MP election.
The NRSA’s political reform committee chairman, Seri Suwanpanont, said the proposal was not yet final and the committee would meet on Tuesday to make a final decision. There has been criticism of and opposition to the proposal and the committee is expected to consider all opinions. “If the committee cannot agree upon the resolution, we may resort to voting, but that is unlikely,’’ Seri said.
He described as misleading the suggestion that the Interior Ministry would be given sole responsibility for holding elections. “The ministry is proposed to serve only as an assistant in preparing the election,’’ he said.
He dismissed remarks from politicians that having the Interior Ministry assist the EC in holding elections is a step backwards. He argued that the move helped create transparency and neutrality and saved state funds. “Ministry officials are unlikely to be biased politically,’’ he said.
He said the EC would not hand over its power to the ministry. Under the proposal, the ministry would deploy officials to oversee polling stations, replacing provincial election officials. “These officials belong to political parties and this can lead to political interference. The ministry is not a villain but the political sector is, as people siding with politicians were deployed to oversee polling booths,’’ he said.
“The EC still has the power to transfer or appoint officials. The political sector fears it cannot seek vested interests and cannot interfere in the EC’s affairs.’’
Seri said the idea to have the NCPO help control the election was aimed at keeping the peace and the junta would not challenge the EC’s authority.
“The EC cannot solve problems when polling stations are blocked even with the support of police. It is better the NCPO control the situation rather than having the PM resort to Article 44 [of the interim charter],’’ he said.
NRSA political committee member Nikorn Chamnong said he believed the proposal conflicted with the charter draft passed in last month’s referendum.
Another NRSA political committee member Wanchai Sornsiri said the NCPO should play a role in ensuring fair elections. “People are not afraid of the EC but [are afraid of] the NCPO,” he said. “The present EC is not united and it needs the NCPO’s support. The council does not have more power than the EC – it only supports the commission.”

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