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EC approaches charter court for ruling on seat formula

politics April 12, 2019 01:00

By THE NATION

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THE ELECTION Commission (EC) yesterday said it will seek a ruling from the Constitutional Court on whether it can use a seat-calculation formula that it worries is unconstitutional.



The EC says that the formula would give seats to parties who received fewer votes than a threshold set in the Constitution.

The EC conceded that its preferred formula may not meet Constitutional requirements but said that other calculations would not enable it to fill all 150 party-list seats. 

The EC’s move comes after days of disagreement and debate over the calculation method for party-list MP seats.

The election agency yesterday announced it had decided to approach the Court after finding it difficult to distribute seats due to the complex election system.

Based on the 2017 Constitution, the agency said their initial calculation resulted in some parties not being eligible to gain any seats in the Lower House. But after the next step of the computation, the EC found that these parties would each gain one seat.

This method would fill the House with the 150 party-list MPs required by the law, the EC said. However, it admitted that this might clash with the Constitution, which states that no party should get seats unless entitled to them in the initial calculation.

Parties are not eligible for seats per the first calculation unless they gain at least 71,000 votes. Some parties now being considered for seats did not win even half that number.

This constitutional hurdle has been the core of arguments made by numerous politicians over the past week. 

The politicians say the correct method of calculation would allocate the 150 party-list seats to some 14 to 16 eligible parties. However, the poll agency announced yesterday that it would in fact be impossible to completely fill the chamber by any calculation method. That discovery led them to ask the Constitutional Court to rule if it could use the controversial calculation that would allocate seats to parties apparently ineligible under Constitutional rules. 

“No calculation methods were able to produce the 150 party-list MPs in line with the Constitution,” the EC statement read, without elaborating on which methods it had tried nor on why or how they were unable to make the numbers fit the 150 vacant seats. 

Meanwhile, election experts insisted yesterday that most experts on the issue had agreed on a path that would result in the perfect allocation of 150 seats and that there was no interpretation problem with the election method.

Yingcheep Atchanont, programme manager of rights defenders iLaw, reiterated yesterday that it was possible to give seats to eligible parties and fill all 150 seats.

“Most people agree with this interpretation. It cannot be interpreted in any other way, unless the EC is trying to distort this,” he said. 

Yingcheep said he agreed that the EC should take the matter to Court to settle the dispute. However, he said that the process should be completed within the deadline in May and avoid any further delays.

Political scientist Stithorn Thananitichoti agreed that numerous experts had no problem in allotting the seats to the eligible parties via their calculation method. 

However, Stithorn said the Constitutional Court may choose to refuse the case, as the EC’s approach had not yet been enforced. The EC might just have to continue with its method and endorse the election results before the case could be brought to the Court again, he said.