EC says lo­cal polls may risk na­tional vote

Ab­hisit wants govt to com­plete re­forms first

Bangkok Post - - NATIONAL - AEKARATH SATTABURUTH MONGKOL BANGPRAPA

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.

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