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Election commissioner Somchai pushes ahead over controversial EC bill

Jul 17. 2017
Election Commission president Supachai Somcharoen
Election Commission president Supachai Somcharoen
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By Chanikarn Phumhiran
The Nation

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Election commissioner Somchai Srisuthhiyakorn on Monday pushed forward an attempt to oppose the controversial bill on the Election Commission (EC), in light of the agency’s meeting to finalse its decision on the law on Tuesday.

Somchai said he would carry on even though EC president Supachai Somcharoen had suggested that there should be “nothing left” for the EC to work on, as it had already proposed its points to the tripartite vetting committee.

One suggestion is that the law draft has already been approved unanimously by the National Legislative Assembly (NLA), with 194-0 votes. “I don’t have any personal doubt on the draft. Decisions, however, will be concluded at the meeting [on Tuesday],” Supachai said.

Somchai said there should be four channels enabling the EC to propose its concerns for a Constitutional Court verdict as to whether certain clauses violate the new Constitution.

The first channel is through the prime minister, as the charter’s Article 148 empowers the premier, when seeing any error in a draft law, to seek consideration by the Constitutional Court before the bill is submitted for royal endorsement, Somchai said.

The second channel is for the EC, as an independent agency, to directly file petitions to the Constitutional Court. Article 210 of the new Constitution authorises the court to rule whether any law or bill violates the charter.

The third channel is through each of the commissioners, as the charter’s Article 213 provides individuals with the right to petition for a court verdict as to whether any acts are against the charter. But if they chose the third way, the commissioners would only be able to touch on the re-registration issue as it is the only matter that will affect each of them individually, Somchai said.

The final way would be for the EC to wait until the bill draft is enacted and then file a petition to the Ombudsman, who is authorised to file petitions to the court if they see any law with potential to go against the charter.

Somchai said that he had not yet made up his mind about whether to solely push the matter to the Constitutional Court in case the EC does not want to propose anything further on the law draft.

“Even if I do, I won’t do it for my own interest. I will do it to prove the efficiency of this country’s law,” he said. “If the [Constitutional] Court said that I can’t file it on my own, we’ll learn at once that the charter does not really guarantee people’s rights.”

Meanwhile, the president of the EC’s advising committee, Surin Nakwichien ,said this charter does not specify the prime minister to receive or pass petitions for any party. Such a petition should also be considered as to whether it will be for the benefits of the public or individuasl, he said.

In Surin’s view, there is only one point among all six raised by the EC that is really inconsistent with the charter.

While the charter’s Article 224 says that individual commissioners can suspend an election in any constituency,  Article 26 states that the cause of suspension must be reported to receive consensus from the EC. 

But these points had already been discussed by the joint vetting committee, he added.

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