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Deadlock over plan for primary vote system

Jun 21. 2017
CDC spokesman Norachit Sinhaseni
CDC spokesman Norachit Sinhaseni
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By KASAMAKORN CHANWANPEN
THE NATION

THE DRAFTERS of the new political party organic law still did not see eye to eye regarding the controversial issue of a primary vote system, which would be a first in Thai politics, prompting them to leave the issue undecided during a meeting yesterday.

The Constitution Drafting Commission (CDC) and the Election Commission (EC) met yesterday to discuss the primary vote system, amid claims it would cause difficulties for political parties.

The EC maintained that despite difficulties, the new system would be feasible in practice, but focused on convincing the CDC that the agency should have the authority to oversee the system.

After a five-hour meeting, CDC spokesman Norachit Sinhaseni told reporters during a press briefing that the EC initially did not believe the organic law on political parties contradicted the Constitution, implying that it should not be reversed after the National Legislative Assembly endorsed it last week.

Despite concerns about difficulties, the EC believed the new system, which requires political parties to field members in every contestng constituency, could be realised in practice, Norachit said.

The EC also concluded that it had the power to regulate the system, including issuing red or yellow cards if irregularities were found, because it would be part of the election, Norachit said.

However, he added that CDC members had expressed uncertainty about whether the matterwas in the EC’s purview. He said the law did not stipulate clear punishment for violations of the system so it was unclear how the EC would exercise its powers.

The organic law on political parties, especially the clause on the primary vote system, in the NLA version was inconsistent with what the CDC had written, Norachit said, adding the CDC had |not come to an agreement on the law.

The CDC had not yet received the draft from the NLA, according to a CDC source.

A petition against the draft calling for a joint committee to review it can be made within 10 days after it is received, according to the Constitution.

Meanwhile, former prime minister and Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva opposed the primary vote system yesterday, slamming the law drafters as inexperienced.

Although he acknowledged that the intent was to improve public participation, he said he doubted whether that could be achieved given that people might hesitate to join parties due to the annual membership fees. Participation would also incur other costs such as transportation, Abhisit said.

The primary poll, which would resemble a national election, would also be a financial burden for parties, he said.

The party-list system in the new law was also problematic, Abhisit said, adding that candidates from bigger constituencies might have an upper hand over those from smaller provinces.

Abhisit also said the requirement that party-list members would have to compete to win primary votes contradicted the principle of encouraging political novices with good credentials to join politics.

The former prime minister suggested that if the legislators wanted the primary system, they should go all the way and abandon the party-list system. He also expressed concern that smaller and new parties would not have the capability to adopt the new rules because of the limited time.

Public participation would be meaningless if parties were unable to field candidates, he said.

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