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Fears of election delay amid law amendment proposals

Dec 14. 2017
file photo : PM Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha casts vote in the referendum on the then-charter draft in August last year
file photo : PM Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha casts vote in the referendum on the then-charter draft in August last year
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By WASAMON AUDJARINT
THE NATION

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CRITICS QUESTION WHETHER HIDDEN AGENDA BEHIND NEW PUSH BY REGIME SUPPORTERS

DESPITE the junta’s renewed political ties with the European Union, political figures have proposed amendments to the political party law that could affect the election timetable. 

As a result, political observers are concerned that the proposed amendment could affect the date of the election, which is set to take place in November next year in line with the junta’s “road map to democracy”.

Existing parties are expected to submit their updated membership rosters to an election registrar before January 5. However, several observers have expressed worry that they will not be able to make the deadline as it involves a large number of members, possibly more than a million.

The junta’s ban on political gatherings of five or more people has also prevented parties from holding other activities. 

Recently, some political figures had proposed amendments to the law. 

Paiboon Nititawan

Former junta-appointed reformer Paiboon Nititawan proposed on Monday that the NLA should amend the bill to require parties to re-register all of their members to “create a fair field for all old and new parties”.

While new members would have to pay registration fees to parties as required by the bill, existing members that were signed up before the bill’s enactment could maintain their memberships without paying, Paiboon suggested.

Paiboon has been involved in setting up a political party with a clear agenda to support Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to maintain the premiership after the election.

Suthep Thaugsuban

Suthep Thaugsuban of the now defunct People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) – who initiated demonstrations in late 2013-2014 before the coup – has submitted a letter to the NLA, also proposing amendments to the bill.

The letter said the bill should be fixed “in accordance with the country’s situation” and “to bring about fairness and equality for all parties, no matter old or new”. The proposal also supported the continuation of the political ban.

Suthep signed the letter as “Secretary-General to the PDRC”. 

Political parties, such as Chart Thai Pattana Party and Phalang Chon Party, also voiced concerns that parties could not comply with requirements in time but suggested that registrars or the Election Commission should use their special authority instead of amending the bill.

Meanwhile, Somsak Thepsuthin, a veteran politician from Matchima Thippathai Party, yesterday proposed an amendment to the 2017 Constitution to allow MP candidates to run as independents in the election rather than having to be attached to a political party.

Democrat Party and Chart Thai Pattana Party figures yesterday questioned the agenda behind proposals to amend the bill. 

While Democrat deputy leader Sathit Pitudecha urged the junta’s “five rivers of power” to be consistent in legislative and practical actions, Chart Thai Pattana Party adviser Somsak Prissanananthakul called on the junta to be accountable if it fails to follow the promised “road map to democracy”.

Sukhum Nuansakul, Ramkham-haeng University’s former rector, said an amendment would only turn the junta into a political target once again for its apparent tendency to postpone the election. “It will ultimately depend on their integrity to hold the election, after all,” he said.

Siripan Nogsuan Sawasdee, a political lecturer at Chulalongkorn University, said that an amendment would be acceptable if it is not used as a reason to postpone the election further.

“The remaining two organic laws essential for the election are still to be deliberated by the NLA next month. It’s not that they won’t have sufficient time to amend the bill,” Siripan said.

She said the amendment should be open to public participation to look into electoral mechanisms, such as the so-called primary voting system, that might obstruct the political party system.

NLA member Somchai Sawangkarn said the NLA had taken all proposals into consideration but hinted that the bill amendment could be time consuming. 

“But it can’t be said that it will affect the timeline of the election. Everything still follows the road map,” he said.

Constitution Drafting Commission (CDC) chairman Meechai Ruchupan voiced opposition to Paiboon's proposal to amend the Political Party Act to nullify party memberships for all existing parties in order to avoid disadvantaging new parties.

“It is not fair for political party members to have their membership status terminated,” he said, “although I admit that there is an advantage and disadvantage between the old and new parties,” said Meechai whose CDC drafted the law.

But Meechai said if the amendment affected or delayed the road map to the next election, the delay could not be blamed on the original charter writers.

The CDC chief also responded negatively to another proposal proposed by Somsak to amend the 2017 Constitution , saying it was hard to amend the charter because it was passed in the referendum.

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