By NITIPOL KIRAVANICH
THE DRAFTERS of the constitution may have stipulated a new type of electoral system for Thailand - a mixed-member proportional (MMP) electoral system - but Mahidol University professor Gothom Arya has doubts.
He believes an MMP system would lead to a coalition government. More importantly, he says, is the question: are Thai people ready to accept it?
A seminar held on Sunday by the Institute of Human Rights and Peace Studies (IHRP) on “Election System Reform in Thailand: MMP or another system?” discussed the system along with invited international communities who had adopted it.
Ekapan Pinthavanish, another Mahidol University professor, said the MMP was the fairest electoral system because it made every vote count.
However, he said the issue would be how people understood eligible votes, which even some political scientists were still confused about.
Andrew Ellis, a member of the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistant (IDEA), said it was possible to design an electoral system, but the important factor was the intention of the system.
Focus on stability
Ellis said drafters could focus on promoting stable government, continuity in government – all of which were possible – but we could not have them all at once.
He also pointed out that nine nations had adopted the MMP system. Four were presidential, four parliamentary and one had a semi-presidential system.
Luie Guia, a member of the Philippines Election Commission, said his country focused mainly on making every citizen participate in voting, which included overseas Filipinos.
He said the issues among Philippines voters covered interpretation of a party-list system of proportional representation versus reserved seats, weak political parties, political dynasties and the quality of candidates.
Suchit Bunbongkan, vice-chairman of the Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC), said the charter drafters adopted this new electoral system for Thailand to focus on making every vote count, along with giving an opportunity for small parties to gain more seats in the Parliament.
“The reason is we wanted our election to truly reflect the people,” Suchit insisted.
Suchit added that the past system had failed to promote the linkage from representatives to the people.
He said for many years the Thai government had been dominated by one party. Sometimes MPs from one dominant party also received more votes than the exact number they should get.
He referred to a past system in which a party that won the election had a majority of seats in the Parliament.
He admitted that such a system [MMP] could lead to a coalition government that had raised concerns, especially among political parties. However, he suggested there would be no problems if the parties within a coalition government were stable.
Robert Peden, chairman of the New Zealand Election Commission, said his country held a referendum in 1992 and the voters were asked if they wanted to change the existing “first past the post” system.
They indicated support for one of four reform options.
Fifty-five per cent of registered voters took part and the result showed that an overwhelming 85 per cent voted for the change to MMP.