Court endorses constitutionality of new political party bill
The Constitutional Court voted unanimously on Wednesday to endorse the constitutionality of the new political party bill, a crucial step for permitting the next general election.
The nine Constitutional Court judges ruled that the political party bill, one of two organic laws needed for holding general elections, did not contravene the provisions of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand.
Earlier, 77 senators asked the court to deliberate whether sections 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9 and 10 of the new political party bill would contravene the charter or not.
The senators' petition was forwarded to the court by the Parliament president on August 29 and the court accepted it for judicial review on September 21.
The sections in question regard membership fees of political parties and how they would select election candidates.
The new bill would reduce the annual membership fee from 100 baht a year to just 20 baht and the life membership fee from 2,000 baht to 200 baht.
The senators who sponsored the petition expressed concern that the lower membership fees would allow business tycoons to dominate parties by hiring people to apply for membership.
The amended bill’s sections in question would also allow people charged in criminal cases, corruption cases, gambling and drug cases, money laundering and human trafficking to be members of parties if they escape imprisonment.
The senators also expressed concern that the new party bill that would allow provincial committees of a party to nominate election candidates would violate the charter. They said the charter requires the people or ordinary party members to nominate candidates based on constituencies instead of provincial committees selecting candidates based on provinces.
The court will formally inform the Parliament president of its decision and the Parliament president will inform the prime minister to send the bill for royal command and enact it.
The political party bill is one of two organic laws for organising general elections. The other bill is the MPs election bill, on which the court will make a decision on November 30.
A group of 105 senators asked the court to consider whether Sections 25 and 26 of the election bill violated the charter or not.
Section 25 would cancel the prohibition in the previous election law on the counting of votes in constituencies, where by-elections need to be held, as votes for sharing party-list House seats.
Section 26 would cancel a requirement in the previous election law for recalculating party-list House seats in a year if some constituency MPs are found to have cheated in the election.
Political observers fear that if the court rules against the election bill, there could be a political vacuum and the next general election might not be held unless the House speeds up passage of a new election bill in time.
So far, the Election Commission has tentatively set May 7, 2023, as the date for the next election.