EC says local polls may risk national vote
Abhisit wants govt to complete reforms first
The Election Commission (EC) is warning that holding local elections is no easy task and may undermine the new poll agency’s capacity to organise a general election.
EC member Somchai Srisutthiyakorn said local polls are rife with complaints about fraud and complex forms of votebuying and are believed to be even more fiercely contested than general elections.
He said the new EC may find itself drowned in complaints and legal cases and may not be able to hold a general election efficiently.
Mr Somchai’s warning comes ahead of tomorrow’s meeting between Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam, the Interior Ministry and other agencies concerning a plan to amend five laws about the elections of local administration organisations (LAOs).
The amendments were suggested by the Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) after the government hinted that limited local elections will be held ahead of a general election.
However, it remains unknown which local bodies will oversee elections. There are several local bodies, including the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration and Pattaya City, and most have seen their tenures completed.
Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon said the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) will decide where local elections will be held but the issue is not ready for discussion yet.
Meanwhile, the NCPO is being urged to resolve at least three key issues before it proceeds to call local elections.
Among them is the effect of the ban on political activities. Political parties are worrying as they are likely to become engaged in activities when campaigns for local elections get under way, according to Abhisit Vejjajiva, the Democrat Party leader.
Mr Abhisit said the regime should decide if LAO reforms should be completed before local polls are held.
“If the LAO structures are changed or revised as the result of reforms, we will require fresh elections to meet the new structures. So what should we do first?” said Mr Abhisit.
Another issue involves the status of local administrators who have been suspended in the wake of the NCPO’s crackdown on corruption since 2014.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha exercised his power under Section 44 of the interim charter to remove several local administrators pending investigation.
According to Mr Abhisit, several of those who face accusations and are suspended during the inquiries against them feel they have been treated unfairly and have not had a chance to properly defend themselves against allegations that directly affect their ability to contest elections.
Mr Abhisit’s concerns were echoed by Sitthichai Charoenthanachind, former mayor of Tha Sao in Uttaradit’s Muang district, who was removed from the post three years ago under Section 44.
According to Mr Sitthichai, he was ousted after provincial authorities forwarded a report on a raid on his house by troops. Nothing illegal turned up in the raid but the raid party seized his permit to possess firearms.
“I don’t oppose the use of Section 44 to maintain peace and order. But the investigation should be handled quickly instead of being dragged for a year or two without a conclusion,” he said.