Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Activist group seeks NACC probe into EC’s conduct

Apr 08. 2019
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By The Nation

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SRISUWAN SAYS EVIDENCE OF ‘IRREGULARITIES’ WILL BE PROVIDED TO ANTI-GRAFT BODY; POLL AGENCY BLAMES DELAYS ON COMPLICATED NEW SYSTEM

THE UNDER-FIRE Election Commission (EC) finds itself in more hot water after an activist group said it planned to lodge a petition with the anti-graft body today, seeking an investigation into the poll agency’s conduct and alleged irregularities.

Srisuwan Janya, secretary-general of the Association of Organisations for the Protection of the Thai Constitution, said yesterday the group would submit the petition at the headquarters of the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) in Nonthaburi province. 

The petition alleges offences committed by all seven members of the EC, and Srisuwan said the evidence will include the names of voters and “witnesses” to the alleged offences.

He said the group wants the NACC to refer the matter to public prosecutors, who he believes will bring it before the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Political Office Holders. “If the court agrees to accept the case, the seven commissioners have to stop working until a verdict is delivered,” he said.

EC deputy secretary-general Sawang Boonmee defended the body, saying the allegations were groundless and the Thai electoral process was one of the world’s most secure, as it was safe from any kind of fraud or cheating. 

The system is transparent as the election committee is stationed in all 350 constituencies and 92,300 polling stations across the country, Sawang posted on his personal Facebook page yesterday.

More than a million volunteers, independent observers from home and abroad, political parties’ representatives and media were allowed to watch the process at the polling stations, he said. 

However, he said, the system is a bit complicated since there are 350 different ballot cards for all 350 constituencies because candidates have different numbers. 

Previously, candidates of a political party had the same number for all constituencies. A lot of voters living overseas also got it wrong in advance voting as they were confused by the ballot cards. 

Sawang said the polling hours were longer than in previous elections – from 8am to 5pm, rather than until 3pm as in the past. With the high numbers of eligible voters – more than 51 million – officials had to work 15 to 18 hours on election day, he said. 

Complicated system

The turnout of 74 per cent is the highest-ever since elections were held under the 1997 Constitution, he said. Eighty-one political parties and more than 12,000 candidates were in the electoral fray, he said, adding that usually only 20 to 30 parties and a few thousand candidates take part. The legal complexities as well as a complicated system and different ballots overwhelmed election officials on the day, he said. 

The most complicated issue has been the announcing of results. The commission until now has only released the total number of votes each party won, but there is no confirmation yet on how many Lower House seats they translate into.

The two major camps competing for the right to form the government have made equally strong claims. While the pro-junta Phalang Pracharat Party claimed it had the people’s mandate as it got the most number of votes – 8.4 million – the anti-junta Pheu Thai has staked its claim as it has won the most seats – 137 out of 350 constituencies. 

An even more contentious issue is the right formula for calculation of party-list MPs, as different formulas would favour different camps. 

Election commissioner Sawang defended the delay, arguing it was a long process as the Constitution and the election law had laid out a complicated formula for calculating the number of seats. 

Also, he said, the intense rivalry between parties had resulted in a spree of complaints. “There are so many groundless allegations against the Election Commission,” he said. “If such allegations are backed with solid evidence, the commissioners cannot escape action.

“If anybody has the evidence to prove that our work was without transparency, and neither free nor fair, then please show us the evidence so we can tackle the problem,” he said.

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