General election could be invalidated as Junta clings on to power

Questions are being raised about Thai military leaders and their sudden increase in wealth

The recently-dismissed election commissioner has said that the upcoming general election might be invalidated due to legal ambiguity and conflicts of authority between the junta the Election Commission of Thailand (ECT).

On 25 March 2018, Somchai Srisuthiyakorn, a former member of the ECT posted on Facebook predicting two problematic issues which could lead to the nullification of the long-awaited election.

The first relates to a question “who will schedule the election day” as the 2017 Constitution gives this power to the ECT, while the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) Order Number 53/2017 allows the junta to schedule the election day.

Somchai added although the order states that the cabinet must consult other political institutions, such as political parties and the ECT, before announcing an election day, the NCPO, in fact, has the final say.

“I believe that, de jure, the cabinet and the NCPO might allow the ECT to schedule [election day] because the constitution is always higher than NCPO orders.

However, de facto, the NCPO might use its power to make the ECT announce according to what it wants by citing the consensus under Article 8 of the NCPO Order 53/2017,” posted Somchai.

The second problem is a legal ambiguity concerning the length of the election. The constitution states general must be held and “finished” within 150 days after the four organic election laws are endorsed.

According to Somchai, it remains unclear whether the term “finished” includes the ballot counting procedures and the announcement of the official results or not.

He believes that the ECT is likely to interpret that ballot counting is excluded since it wants to allow all parties to campaign as long as possible.

If not included, the ECT has to spare 50 or 60 out of the 150 days to count ballots which will be unfair for small political parties because they have less time to campaign.

“The winner of the election might not do anything but what if those who lost was an influential figure and petitioned the Constitutional Court?

If the court acquits, then that is fine, but if the court ruled that the finished election must include the official announcement of the election results, the upcoming election would be invalidated,” Somchai predicts.

Previously, Somchai also forecasted that the delay in the drafting process of the Organic Bill on the Selection of Senators could postpone the election for another six months or less.

Somchai was an iconic member of the ECT who had served the military government since the beginning.

During the 2016 constitutional referendum, Somchai participated in drafting the controversial Public Referendum Act, which led to numerous prosecutions of people who criticised the junta’s constitution.

He had also made repeated criticism against the NCPO on issues related to the election until last week; the junta activated its absolute power under Section 44 of the Interim Charter to dismiss Somchai from the ECT, citing his alleged misbehaviour. – PrachataiEnglish

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