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MP total 'could fall short' if blockades continue

Dec 29. 2013
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By The Nation

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Fears that protests will keep 95% minimum from being met; EC to discuss possible poll delay with govt, PDRC

A former election commissioner warned yesterday of an impending political deadlock that could make a new House of Representatives unable to function properly. 

Sodsri Sattayathum, former member of the Election Commission (EC), expressed her concern yesterday that the February 2 election may end up producing fewer than the required minimum of 95 per cent of House members. 
Meanwhile, Election Commissioner Somchai Srisuthiyakorn said yesterday it was likely that some commissioners would resign if pre-election violence threatened to escalate. However, he added that he did not think any such resignations would take place in the near future.
“When no other way out is available for the country, the EC members will assess the situation and make our decision when the time is right. We may use this option [resignation] to ease the situation and end the problem,” Somchai said.
He met government representatives yesterday to discuss ways of easing the conflict ahead of the February 2 poll. Protests occurred in many southern provinces after candidacy registration for constituency MPs began on Saturday.
Somchai said he would meet with three high-ranking representatives of the government at an undisclosed location, but he declined to identify them.
The discussion would focus on whether the election could be postponed to avoid further violence, he said.
He would also meet representatives of the main group organising anti-government protests, the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC), later today.
PDRC spokesman Akanat Promphan said yesterday the group was happy to meet with election commissioners about the matter.
Sodsri said yesterday that she feared that as candidacy registration was blocked in many provinces, the number of MPs would fall short of the 95-per-cent threshold required to open Parliament.
The Constitution states that the House of Representatives shall be deemed duly formed when a general election returns at least 480 members of the House of Representatives, but not less than 95 per cent of the total number of members.
The House of Representatives is made up of 375 constituency members and 125 “proportional representation” members selected from party lists.
Registrations in seven southern provinces with a total of 32 constituencies remain blocked by anti-government protesters. Sodsri noted that it would only require 25 constituencies to fail to complete registrations for the number of MPs to fall below the 95-per-cent threshold due to Thailand’s “proportional representation” method. 
She noted that when she was in office, the EC faced a similar problem when no candidates showed up for by-elections after Democrat MPs in the South resigned. Under the current election law, there is no clause to break this “deadlock”.
At that time, the EC was prepared to have the Auditor General’s Office seek a ruling from the Constitutional Court, she said.
Meanwhile, caretaker Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul said yesterday that 53 countries and two international organisations have issued statements backing Thailand’s election. He said they believed that the election would be an internationally accepted means to return power to the people, he said.
The latest statements were issued by Colombia and Mexico, which praised the planned election as a way to promote public participation and benefit Thailand. They said they would closely monitor the situation in Thailand and hoped for a peaceful, democratic and constitutional solution, according to Surapong, who is also in charge of the government’s Centre for the Administration of Peace and Order.

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