Election watchdog rebuts charge it is changing the rules
The formula and practices for distributing House seats and dividing constituencies in the upcoming election has been in use since 2015, an election commissioner said on Wednesday.
Commissioner Pakorn Mahannop made the comment at a press conference in response to criticism from Somchai Srisutthiyakorn, a former election commissioner and now a member of the Seri Ruam Thai Party.
Somchai had said it was wrong for the commission to count stateless residents as part of the population figure used to divide constituencies, after the commission announced on Tuesday its formula for distributing House seats.
Pakorn said law-abiding but stateless residents of Thailand have been part of the population figure used for calculating the number of MPs since 2015, following advice from the Council of State.
The Council of State advised the commission that stateless people, who live legally in the country, must be counted as part of the population for calculating House seats. Pakorn said the commission also divided and distributed House seats for the 2019 general election based on this advice.
The commission announced on Monday it had approved the distribution of 400 House seats for 400 constituencies nationwide based on Thailand’s population of 66,090,475. That figure was announced by the Provincial Administration Department on December 31.
The commission then distributed the number of constituencies based on the formula of one for 164,226 Thais.
The new MPs Election Act increased the number of constituencies from 350 to 400.
As a result, Bangkok will have 33 MPs. Nakhon Ratchasima province will have 16. Khon Kaen, Chiang Mai and Ubon Ratchathani provinces will have 11 each, while Chonburi province will have 10.
Pakorn also said that the commission on Monday had approved five directives on the election and political parties, and that these will be published soon in the Royal Gazette so that they will take effect before the upcoming election.
The commission has set a tentative election date for May 7 on the condition that the House is not dissolved before it concludes its four-year tenure on March 22.
Pakorn said the commission has several more steps to implement for the election. They are:
- Provincial and Bangkok election directors will fit districts, tambon or villages into the number of constituencies distributed to each province. The dividing of the constituencies in provinces and Bangkok must be done in three forms at least and done in three days.
- The three forms of constituencies must be published in the provinces for local people and political parties contesting in the provinces to express opinions. The announcements on public notice boards in the provinces must be made from February 4 to 13.
- Provincial election committees must gather opinions and report them to the commission for consideration.
- The commission will hold a meeting to select one form for dividing each province’s constituencies.
- The finalised list of constituencies for the election will be published in the Royal Gazette.
Pakorn said the commission had plenty of time to hold the election. If the House completes its four-year tenure, the election will be held 45 days later, he said. If the House is dissolved before this, the election will be held 60 days later, he added.
Provincial committees will not gerrymander constituencies to benefit any political party – as feared by some parties – but will create the boundaries of constituencies fairly, Pakorn said.