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Key state bodies to meet on legal hurdles to election

Jun 13. 2018
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A KEY meeting today to discuss legal problems on the path to the next election may not lead to concrete resolutions, as the participants are not decision-makers, Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said yesterday.

He said officials concerned with the preparations for the national vote, from the government, the Election Commission (EC), |the Constitution Drafting Commission, and Council of State – which is the government’s legal adviser – would take part in the meeting.

Wissanu, who is in charge of the government’s legal affairs, said the discussion at Government House would focus on obstacles that political parties are facing due to the Political Parties Act and the NCPO Order No 53/2017, which made some amendments to the new law.

Political parties have complained that the order issued by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) last December, in addition to the junta ban on political activities, had restricted them from preparing for the election, such as holding primary voting among party members to select election candidates.

“The discussion may not lead to a conclusion. It’s because the participants cannot make decisions by themselves,” Wissanu said yesterday.

No representatives from political parties have been invited to attend today’s meeting, he said.

Wissanu expected the EC to raise the issues viewed as obstructing the preparations for the election. The EC is likely to ask the NCPO to issue an order under Article 44 of the post-coup charter allowing the agency to designate constituencies before the new electoral law takes effect.

The EC plans to discuss with the government the difficulties faced by political parties, the agency’s secretary-general, Jarungvith Phumma, said yesterday. He will be representing the EC at the meeting today. 

The issues include recruitment of party members and convening party assemblies, according to Jarungvith. These should be fixed to allow parties to make arrangements for the election, he added. 

The agency would recommend solutions to the problems but it was up to the NCPO to make a decision, Jarungvith said.

Meanwhile, the two major political parties took opposing stances on whether to join a meeting with the junta that is expected later this month.

Chusak Sirinin

Key Pheu Thai member Chusak Sirinin said his party remained firm in its opinion that electoral matters were the EC’s responsibility and that the NCPO should stay out of it.

He said since the NCPO was now showing signs of political ambition by forming its own political party, it had become a stakeholder in the election and hence lacked legitimacy to host talks to discuss the election with other parties, Chusak said.

Democrat deputy leader Nipit Intrasombat said party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva had already said that it would cooperate with the NCPO. So, it was likely that the Democrats would join the talks, he said.

However, another Democrat deputy leader, Ongart Klampaiboon, said yesterday that so far the party had not been officially approached by the NCPO about the meeting. The party had to first see the agenda before it could prepare itself, he said.

Ongart said he was particularly concerned about the timeframe set by the law. He was uncertain if it was sufficient for political parties to make arrangements before the election.

Lt-General Pongsakorn Rodchompoo, deputy leader of tentative Future Forward Party, was firm that his party would not attend the junta-initiated meeting with political parties unless the meeting were broadcast live to ensure transparency. 

“We are just a newborn party. We will not have that much weight in the meeting anyway,” Pongsakorn said, adding the meeting would be just a ritual for the junta and it would not actually seek the opinion of politicians.

Chart Thai Pattana Party keyman Varawut Silpa-archa said that his party would be happy to join if invited but the junta would have to make clear the pre-election timeline at the meeting.

“We are not setting any conditions to speak to the [NCPO]. We only would like to figure out a schedule ahead of the election, which the PM said would be held next February,” Varawut said.


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