Senate election will not be free and fair, warns veteran politician

FRIDAY, MAY 03, 2024

The new selection process for senators lacks transparency and may lead to serious political lobbying and vote buying, a veteran politician warned.

Khunying Sudarat Keyuraphan, leader of the Thai Sang Thai Party, said on Friday that the new senatorial selection method is not inclusive because it prohibits participation by most members of the population, given its age restrictions.

As per the Constitution, candidates for the 200 Senate seats must be at least 40 years old and need to pay a 2,500 baht application fee.

“These senators will not be connected to the people, but will have the power to hand anyone a prominent position in an independent agency,” she said, referring to agencies like the Election Commission, Constitutional Court and the Ombudsman.

The new batch will comprise 10 senators each selected from 20 social and professional groups. These groups comprise a mix of professionals in public and private sectors as well as identity-based groups like women and persons with disability.

In the so-called intra-group election, candidates will vote among the same group to select the top five. These five will then proceed to the next step, where they vote for candidates from other groups. This process is repeated at the district, provincial and national levels, resulting in 10 candidates being chosen from 20 groups, who will then proceed to the Senate.

Sudarat, however, pointed out that this approach allows political groups to have their own candidates vie for votes and use their influence to canvas support for their candidates.

Also, she said, the public will lose trust in independent agencies if their members are not appointed fairly.

“They [the new senators] might be worse than those chosen by the junta,” the politician reiterated.

In a move to oppose this system, some civil groups have taken to the streets urging people to join the race for the Senate. Among the campaigners is Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, founder of the Progressive Movement and former leader of the now-dissolved Future Forward Party.

Thanathorn said on Tuesday that the process would have been more transparent if more people could participate in the election.

The Election Commission, however, warned that candidates for the senatorial election cannot campaign, beg for votes or engage in vote exchange deals.

The term of the current Senate ends on May 11.