NEW POLL RULES UPSET PTP Con­tin­ued on Page 3

PARTY SPLITS INTO OFF­SHOOTS TO HOOVER UP PARTY-LIST SEATS AT GEN­ERAL ELEC­TION

Bangkok Post - - FRONT PAGE - AEKARACH SATTABURUTH

The Pheu Thai Party is strug­gling to cir­cum­vent the ‘‘headaches’’ posed by a new vot­ing sys­tem which will put it at a dis­ad­van­tage in the next gen­eral elec­tion.

It has come up with a ‘‘multi-pronged’’ strat­egy which in­volves the party diver­si­fy­ing into off­shoots to se­cure as many votes as pos­si­ble in the next poll, as well as set­ting up fall-back par­ties should it be dis­solved ahead of the poll, a party source said.

The new con­sti­tu­tion stip­u­lates a mixed­mem­ber pro­por­tional rep­re­sen­ta­tion vot­ing sys­tem and the use of a sin­gle bal­lot for both con­stituency and party-list MPs.

This will likely re­sult in ma­jor par­ties, par­tic­u­larly Pheu Thai, win­ning fewer House seats, dash­ing its hopes of grab­bing a par­lia­men­tary ma­jor­ity and form­ing a sin­gle-party gov­ern­ment.

Crit­ics say the new sys­tem could lead to smaller par­ties form­ing a coali­tion gov­ern­ment while un­der­min­ing the ma­jor par­ties. Un­der the new vot­ing sys­tem, it is un­likely that any one sin­gle party will be able to ob­tain an ab­so­lute ma­jor­ity of votes to form a gov­ern­ment.

At the next elec­tion ev­ery vote will count, and there­fore the set­ting up of back-up par­ties is be­ing seen as a tac­tic to se­cure votes, ac­cord­ing to ob­servers.

The more votes a party wins in the con­stituency sys­tem, the less votes in the partylist sys­tem it will get. In light of this, a party may need to set up ad­di­tional par­ties to gain party-list votes.

The to­tal num­ber of MPs will be capped at 500, of which 350 are elected from con­stituen­cies and 150 from the party lists which will be pro­por­tion­ally al­lo­cated to each party based on the num­ber of votes from con­stituen­cies.

How­ever, in this elec­tion, the votes cast for los­ing con­stituency can­di­dates will still be used to cal­cu­late the num­ber of party-list seats, rather than be­ing thrown away un­der the old first-past-the-post sys­tem.

Can­di­dates who win the most votes in each con­stituency will still au­to­mat­i­cally be­come mem­bers of par­lia­ment, while the par­ties of un­suc­cess­ful can­di­dates still have a chance of se­cur­ing a party-list seat in par­lia­ment.

Had the new rules been used for the 2011 elec­tion, for ex­am­ple, Pheu Thai would have won no party-list seats at all, ac­cord­ing to party sec­re­tary-gen­eral Phumtham Wechay­achai.

There­fore, Pheu Thai is hav­ing to be creative with its ‘‘multi-pronged’’ strat­egy which in­volves the off­shoots and fall-back par­ties, a party source said.

The strat­egy has been de­signed to cir­cum­vent the con­straints of the new sys­tem, the same source said.

As the new elec­toral method means Pheu Thai might not cap­ture any partylist seats, it will need al­lies to col­lect th­ese valu­able “loser votes” that will trans­late into party-list seats, said the source.

Pheu Thai will work with th­ese “al­lies” to cap­ture the most seats from both the con­stituency and the party-list sys­tems in the next poll, the source said. Among ithese al­lies is the Thai Raksa Chart Party.

Un­der the strat­egy, Pheu Thai will fo­cus on se­cur­ing con­stituency seats, though the party does not plan to stand in all 350 con­stituen­cies na­tion­wide, the source said.

In fact, it will con­test only 250 con­stituen­cies mostly in the North and the North­east which are its ma­jor strongholds, leav­ing Thai Raksa Chart to dif­fer­en­ti­ate it­self from its un­pop­u­lar cousin and run in the 100 other con­stituen­cies in the South, the East and the Cen­tral Plains re­gion in or­der to pick up “loser votes”, which will trans­late into party list seats, the source said.

Ac­cord­ing to the source, if and when the two par­ties, as well as oth­ers which share the same po­lit­i­cal ide­olo­gies form an al­liance af­ter the poll, they hope to have more than 250 MP seats be­tween them, which will hand them a par­lia­men­tary ma­jor­ity.

Thai Raksa Chart is mar­ket­ing it­self as a gath­er­ing of “po­lit­i­cal young bloods”.

While most of the party’s core mem­bers are young, they largely come from prom­i­nent po­lit­i­cal fam­i­lies known to have close af­fil­i­a­tions with the Shi­nawa­tra fam­ily, whose po­lit­i­cal and blood­line con­nec­tions run deep in the Pheu Thai.

Lt Preechapol Pong­panich, the party’s leader and a for­mer MP for Khon Kaen, is the son of for­mer sen­a­tor Rabi­abrat Pong­panich and for­mer deputy in­te­rior min­is­ter Sermsak Pong­panich. Party sec­re­tary-gen­eral, Mitti Tiya­pairat, is the son of for­mer par­lia­ment pres­i­dent Yongyuth Tiya­pairat.

Lt Preechapol said Thai Raksa Chart’s poli­cies fo­cus mainly on mak­ing the most of tech­nol­ogy and in­no­va­tion to im­prove peo­ple’s lives and boost the coun­try’s com­pet­i­tive­ness.

The party brings to­gether a new gen­er­a­tion of tal­ented politi­cians with mod­ern ideas, he said, adding that the party will not leave any Thai peo­ple be­hind.

‘‘We will ap­ply tech­nol­ogy in the best in­ter­ests of the coun­try. We be­lieve we will come up with poli­cies which re­spond to the peo­ple’s needs. We are con­fi­dent we

can change the coun­try for the bet­ter,’’ Lt Preechapol said.

The source said some key Pheu Thai fig­ures such as Chaturon Chaisang, and for­mer en­ergy min­is­ter Pichai Naripthaphan were mak­ing de­ci­sions about whether to join Thai Raksa Chart. The party will hold an ac­tiv­ity on Nov 19 to un­veil its poli­cies, can­di­dates and key mem­bers who have joined from Pheu Thai.

Mr Phumthum said the new con­sti­tu­tion was de­signed to stunt the growth of par­ties so some Pheu Thai mem­bers have de­cided to de­fect to Thai Raksa Chart. “How­ever, this will not af­fect Pheu Thai be­cause it is al­ready a ma­jor party with a lot of per­son­nel,” Mr Phumtham said.

An­other party which is known to be aligned with Pheu Thai is Pheu Tham, headed by for­mer jus­tice min­is­ter Som­pong Amorn­wi­wat. It is likely to serve as a “fall­back” party for Pheu Thai mem­bers who are wor­ried about the pos­si­ble dis­so­lu­tion of Pheu Thai amid al­le­ga­tions fugi­tive ex­premier Thaksin Shi­nawa­tra, con­sid­ered a party out­sider, is pulling the strings.

An­other ally of Pheu Thai is the Pheu Chart Party which is re­port­edly backed by Mr Yongyuth and Jatu­porn Prompan, a core leader of the red-shirt United Front for Democ­racy against Dic­ta­tor­ship.

Mr Jatu­porn has pledged sup­port for Pheu Chart, say­ing the party is part of a ‘’pro-democ­racy” camp com­pris­ing Pheu Thai, Pheu Tham and Thai Raksa Chart par­ties. He said th­ese par­ties will com­pete in the elec­tion with­out any col­lu­sion and will let the peo­ple de­cide to vote for their pre­ferred par­ties them­selves.

Virot Ali, a po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tist at Tham­masat Uni­ver­sity, said that the Pheu Thai has de­vised this multi-pronged strat­egy to pre­pare for the next poll as a re­sult of the new vot­ing method. An­other rea­son for the emer­gence of th­ese so-called sis­ter par­ties is the com­pe­ti­tion for lead­er­ship roles be­tween some key party mem­bers, Mr Virot said.

For ex­am­ple, Khun­y­ing Su­darat Keyu­raphan, who was re­cently named as chair­woman of Pheu Thai’s elec­tion strat­egy com­mit­tee, is flex­i­ble and able to make com­prises with all sides, but some party mem­bers who have strongly-held be­liefs such as Mr Chaturon are not keen to work un­der her, so they may break away and de­fect to Thai Raksa Chart, Mr Virot said.

Com­pe­ti­tion among party mem­bers vy­ing to run in the con­stituen­cies must also be fac­tored in, Mr Virot said. The Thai Raksa Chart may ac­com­mo­date those who are seek­ing to con­test the con­stituency sys­tem but are un­able to find space to do so un­der the Pheu Thai’s ban­ner. But the Thai Raksa Chart and the Pheu Thai are still al­lies, Mr Virot said.

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