PM slammed over bal­lot idea



>> Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha’s pro­posal to re­move the names and lo­gos of par­ties from bal­lot papers has come un­der fire, with crit­ics say­ing it will only con­fuse vot­ers and may ben­e­fit one party in par­tic­u­lar.

The idea was floated by the prime minister dur­ing a pre-elec­tion talk on Fri­day be­tween the Na­tional Coun­cil for Peace and Or­der (NCPO) and rep­re­sen­ta­tives of a num­ber of par­ties.

Gen Prayut sug­gested that bal­lots should con­tain only the names and num­bers of elec­tion can­di­dates with­out the lo­gos and the names of par­ties they be­long to.

Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, sec­re­tary-gen­eral of the Fu­ture For­ward Party, said the gov­ern­ment and the NCPO wanted to see to it that the elec­tion rules were de­signed to keep them in power af­ter the poll.

Gen Prayut’s lat­est pro­posal was un­war­ranted, Mr Piyabutr said, ad­ding that the ab­sence of the names and lo­gos of par­ties on bal­lots will only con­fuse vot­ers.

“If bal­lots bear only the names of poll can­di­dates, it is likely that vot­ers will favour can­di­dates they are fa­mil­iar re­gard­less of what party they be­long to, he said.

“This could ben­e­fit a cer­tain party which has re­cently drawn sev­eral politi­cians from other par­ties to its fold,” he added.

He was re­fer­ring to the Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP), to which sev­eral for­mer MPs have de­fected. The PPRP has made it clear it will sup­port Gen Prayut to re­turn as prime minister af­ter the Feb 24 poll, should he de­sire.

Mr Piyabutr said the au­thor­ity to de­sign the bal­lot papers rests with the Elec­tion Com­mis­sion and that Gen Prayut’s sug­ges­tion could be re­garded as an act of elec­toral in­ter­fer­ence.

Mr Piyabutr also said he dis­agreed with the change to bal­lot num­bers as­signed to con­stituency can­di­dates un­der the law on the elec­tion of MPs which will take ef­fect on Tues­day.

Un­der the law, the old sys­tem in which can­di­dates and the par­ties they stand for share the same bal­lot num­ber when con­test­ing a na­tional elec­tion has been scrapped.

Bal­lot num­bers will now be as­signed on a first-come, first-served ba­sis dur­ing can­di­dacy ap­pli­ca­tions in each con­stituency.

This mean party can­di­dates in each con­stituency will not hold the same num­ber as that of their party as in pre­vi­ous elec­tions.

Mr Piyabutr said these new elec­toral rules are un­nec­es­sar­ily com­pli­cated and will make it harder for par­ties to cam­paign and cause con­fu­sion among vot­ers.

Crit­ics in­sist the pre­vi­ous poll sys­tem, where a party is given a sin­gle can­di­dacy num­ber for ev­ery con­stituency it fields can­di­dates, has proven to be ef­fec­tive. Chang­ing the sys­tem will just con­fuse vot­ers who are fa­mil­iar with the con­sis­tency of the pre­vi­ous process, they ar­gue.

The Con­sti­tu­tion Draft­ing Com­mit­tee which drew up the law on the elec­tion of MPs ar­gued that the new sys­tem is de­signed to en­cour­age can­di­dates to demon­strate their own abil­ity to win votes, rather than de­pend­ing on the rep­u­ta­tion of their party.

Khun­y­ing Su­darat Keyu­raphan, chair­woman of the Pheu Thai Party’s elec­tion strat­egy com­mit­tee, echoed Mr Piyabutr, say­ing that Gen Prayut’s idea would just con­fuse vot­ers.

‘‘I won­der if this can be called political re­form, and whether it will im­prove any­thing? It will only cause con­fu­sion. Vot­ers who want to vote for one party will end up hav­ing sev­eral bal­lot num­bers to vote for. The ab­sence of party lo­gos will fur­ther com­pli­cate things,’’ Khun­y­ing Su­darat said.

Key Pheu Thai mem­ber Watana Muang­sook said the vot­ing process should easy and the de­sign of the bal­lots is es­sen­tial to make it sim­ple for peo­ple to choose their favoured can­di­date.

‘‘Party lo­gos are im­por­tant. Peo­ple will vote for a party based on the logo. Other than caus­ing con­fu­sion, what is the rea­son to re­move party lo­gos?’’ Mr Watana asked.

How­ever, Nat Laosee­sawakul, the EC deputy sec­re­tary-gen­eral, in­sisted the NCPO had not “med­dled” with their work.

At the meeting on Fri­day, the Feb 24 poll date was of­fi­cially con­firmed and par­ties may now be­gin pre­par­ing for the gen­eral elec­tion.

How­ever, ac­tual cam­paign­ing will not be al­lowed until Jan 2 when the royal de­cree call­ing the Feb 24 poll is pub­lished in the Royal Gazette.

Piyabutr: PM is med­dling in poll

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