Vasana staying 'for good of nation'
Poll agency chief cites 500 pending cases and the time it would take to find replacements
Election Commission chief Vasana Puemlarp yesterday insisted his refusal to quit was not motivated by a desire to benefit himself or any individual, saying he was sticking to the job for the sake of the country.
An abrupt departure by any of the remaining three election commissioners would leave the agency in paralysis, as it could take months to find replacements, he said.
"The process that installed me as election commissioner took six months. Even with the special scenario at the moment, I believe it would take more than a month to find a replacement," he said.
Vasana, a native of the eastern province of Chanthaburi, was speaking during a casual meeting with media representatives at his orchard there. The gathering lasted about one-and-a-half hours. Vasana's jokes drew laughter from his visitors from time to time.
It was the first time since a series of court rulings against the embattled agency that the EC chairman has "spoken his mind" before a large group of journalists.
The EC chief said he and the other two commissioners could not leave now as the agency has a caseload of 500 alleged election irregularities that still needed to be investigated. The EC must also organise elections for more than 300 local administrative organisations to be held between this month and August, he said.
The agency also had to consider whether to endorse the remaining 90 winners of the Senate election, the EC chairman said.
"I'm fed up. [But] I'm not a fool who doesn't know when to go. If I were to leave now, it would hurt the country," Vasana said, adding that if he quit, the other two commissioners would have no choice but to follow suit.
Insisting he had performed his duty under the law, Vasana said the Constitution Court, in its ruling that the April 2 snap election was held unfairly, did not point the finger at the election commissioners.
However, Vasana did not rule out the possibility that one or more of the remaining commissioners might resign soon. "You can't stop it - people will die or quit. But if all of us go, there'll be trouble," he said.
He said his appointment to the EC post was the result of a legitimate nomination process.
If others think he made a mistake, they can try to impeach him, he said. "Or they can sue me. There's always a risk of lawsuits. But I'm quite sure I've done nothing wrong," he said.
The Criminal Court is scheduled to rule today on charges of malfeasance and dereliction of duty against the commissioners for allowing candidates to change constituencies in the second round of voting on April 23.
Vasana said he was not demoralised by the pressure on him to go but felt sorry for his family.
The EC chief said he was no stranger to such accusations. Before he was appointed to the commission, he was accused of having links to the Democrat Party, which was in power at the time, and after his appointment, he was accused of being close to the Thai Rak Thai Party, he said.
Vasana confided that before the February 2001 general election, he was approached by "both of the two big parties" to contest the poll under their banners. He said he had become familiar with many key politicians when he was the police coordinator providing information to Cabinet members in response to queries from Parliament.
"I had the chance to contact almost all of the prime ministers [of that period]," he said.
In a related development, Democrat Party spokesman Ong-art Klampaiboon yesterday said the EC should admit its "fault" and the commissioners should resign.
"The EC members are like blind men who think the storm ahead of them is a rainbow. They refuse to take the advice to change the captain. It seems they are ready to sink the ship with their own hands," he said.