THE ELECTION Commission (EC) will have to wait until the new law on the election of MPs becomes effective before it can designate constituencies for the next general election, the agency’s chief said yesterday.
EC chairman Supachai Somcharoen said that relevant units in the agency had been assigned to prepare for the designation of constituencies. However, it has not been finalised, as the EC will gain full authority only when the electoral law comes into effect, he explained.
The new law requires that in designating election constituencies, the EC needs to take inputs from politicians and constituents.
“That will be possible only after the new law takes effect. The EC cannot issue any regulations about elections at the moment, although we already have a plan for implementation,” Supachai said.
He expected the constituency designation to be completed within 60 days of the new law taking effect, after the EC gathers inputs from politicians and voters. The least time the EC would spend on the matter was 14 days, according to Supachai.
The EC chief said the election commissioners have yet to make a decision regarding a suggestion to seek a ruling from the junta under Article 44 of the post-coup charter, empowering the agency to designate constituencies before the law on MP election takes effect.
The suggestion was made by EC general-secretary Jarungvith Phumma, who said an early start would allow political parties sufficient time to prepare for the next election, including holding primary voting among party members to elect their election candidates.
Supachai said yesterday that he was seeking to discuss with Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam, who is in charge of the government’s legal affairs, about the EC’s role in organising the next election. He would raise the possibility of the EC issuing some regulations before the election law takes effect.
The law on MP elections is expected to be submitted for royal endorsement within this month. Once endorsed, the legislation would be published in the Royal Gazette. However, unlike most other laws that take effect the day after promulgation, the new law has a clause that states it will become effective 90 days later.
Meanwhile, senior politicians expressed their concern yesterday that it would be difficult for the EC to ensure a free and fair election as the junta still held the reins of power.
Democrat Party deputy leader Jurin Laksanavisit said the National Council for Peace and Order and its head, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, retained the power to issue orders under Article 44 of the post-coup charter before, during and after the next election, until the junta was replaced by an elected government.
“That raises questions about the possible impact on the fairness of the coming election. I don’t think the election can be free and fair, as long as there are still questions regarding the use of state powers by the current rulers,” the politician said.
Khunying Sudarat Keyuraphan, a key figure from the Pheu Thai Party, said she believed the EC would “face a big battle” to ensure free and fair elections. Sudarat said there could be interventions that could affect the EC’s work, through the government and bureaucratic mechanisms.
Also, she said the people in power could exercise their special powers through Article 44 in interfering with the EC, such as dismissing some election commissioners or influencing the selection of new EC members to replace ones whose terms expired.
All of these could affect the EC’s neutrality and spirit in carrying out its duties, she said.
Jurin and Sudarat were speaking at a panel discussion organised by the EC at Government Complex yesterday. The event was part of activities to mark the election agency’s 20th anniversary.