Court strikes down EC rules that imposed curbs on Senate candidates

FRIDAY, MAY 24, 2024

The Central Administrative Court on Friday ordered the revocation of three regulations by the Election Commission (EC) concerning how Senate candidates introduce themselves. 

These regulations concerned limiting a candidate’s introduction to not more than two A4 pages, the method of electronic introduction, and the prohibition of candidates who are artists or media professionals from using their talents to introduce themselves.

The court ordered the revocation of regulation numbers 7, 8, and 11(2),(3) by the EC regarding introducing Senate candidates for the 2024 Senate election. 

The ruling came in response to a petition filed by Tewarit Maneechai, editor of Prachatai news agency, and Panas Tassaneeyanon, former rector of Thammasat University, along with others, against these EC regulations, deeming them unconstitutional as they hinder public participation as guaranteed by the Constitution.

EC regulation 7 on introducing Senate candidates for the 2024 election, issued on April 26, stipulated that the introduction documents must not exceed A4 size. These documents may include personal information, photographs of the candidates, educational background, or work experience, but are limited to a maximum of two pages. 

Regulation 8 stated that candidates may introduce themselves electronically, using the content from the introduction documents specified in Section 7. This electronic introduction is to be shared exclusively with other candidates in the election.

Regulation 11 (2)  prohibits those engaged in professions related to radio broadcasting, television, media, or advertising, such as actors, singers, musicians, and presenters, from using their special skills or professional capabilities to facilitate their introduction. And 11 (3) prohibits the distribution of the introduction documents by placing, scattering, or posting them in public places. 

The court ruled that the Constitution intended senators to be representatives of the Thai people, with several important duties, including the approval of laws under the Constitution that apply to everyone in the Kingdom. Therefore, the actions of the senators inevitably impacted the Thai public, making it essential for the public to have a role in the decision-making process.

Although the selection of senators is determined through self-selection among candidates, without public voting rights, the Constitution guarantees individuals freedom of expression, speech, opinion, thought, writing, advertising, and other forms of communication. 

The EC's regulations excessively restricted the rights and freedoms of Senate candidates, the court ruled, saying such limitations were unnecessary for state security, the protection of individual rights and freedoms, or the preservation of public morality. Therefore, these disputed regulations are unconstitutional.

The revocation takes retroactive effect from the date these regulations originally came into effect.