ANALYSIS

Bigger parties will have an edge under new system


Small parties expected to find it hard to attract votes, and partylist MPs

Big political parties will have the edge over small parties in the new electoral system.

The system to be adopted in the upcoming general election will see parties vying for MP seats in a more cut-throat competition than ever before.

Since the number of party-list MPs will be increased from 100 to 125, large parties will have an advantage while small parties such as the New Politics Party and the Rak Santi, led by former interior minister Purachai Piumsomboon, will find it tough to compete.

The new system sees a big change in terms of the size of constituencies - from one constituency with three MPs, to one constituency with one MP.

While it is still widely debated which is better for the country in terms of preventing electoral fraud, many believe the change will certainly bring about fierce competition because only one MP candidate will win in a constituency.

It is possible many candidates will have to resort to all means, even underground methods, to win.

Some political experts believe smaller constituencies make it easier to buy votes because limited population and area makes it easier to rig the poll.

Canvassers can also check if the money they spend to buy votes is effective since votes will be counted at the polling station.

On the other hand, one advantage of this system is that since it is so highly competitive, MP candidates will watch over each other to see if their rivals commit electoral fraud.

Having candidates check each other is more effective than state officials doing the job.

Another good point of a small constituency system is that MP candidates can get to know voters throughout their constituencies, bringing them closer to their constituents.

MPs from large parties who only seek to buy votes may not win easily if they do not have close ties with their constituents.

The winners will have to be equipped not only in terms of their connection to political parties, influence and financial resources. They also have to mingle with locals to win their hearts. Apart from local politicians who have all these qualities, influential people who have local leaders as their canvassers can also compete under this system.

Former MPs know they can fail to win seats if they have to lock horns with influential MP candidates. In order to ensure victory, they seek to contest under the party-list system and field their family members in the constituency system to test their popularity. In this case, if they lose, they would not lose overwhelmingly.

This election system was put to the test in the 2001 general election and many former MPs failed to win MP seats while many new faces won seats. The Thai Rak Thai Party came first with the biggest number of MPs.

Former MPs who fail to move to the party-list system will have to fight a tough game to maintain their political strongholds.

Many believe the poll might turn bloody because reports of threats to kill canvassers and local politicians have emerged already.

This is the reason the Election Commission requested Bt500 million for its investigation work. Any constituency that foresees leading candidates facing-off in the competition will be under a close watch.

A change in the party-list system is not only an increase in number from 100 to 125, but also the fact that the new election law does not stipulate minimum scores of 5 per cent to win MP seats.

Large parties such as the Democrats and Pheu Thai will have the edge over small parties. In the 2007 election, Pheu Thai or the People Power Party won 34 party-list MP seats and the Democrats won 33 party-list seats. If both parties receive the same votes for party-list MPs, both will win the same number of party-list MPs -around 51 each.

At the same time, medium-sized and small parties will also win around the same amount of party-list MPs as before.

Any party that wins about 250,000 party-list votes will get one party-list MP. However, winning 250,000 votes is not easy for new or small parties.

The New Politics Party has not yet decided whether to field MP candidates. In the previous election, the party won 112,224 party-list votes, 100,000 votes short of winning one seat. The Rak Santi led by Purachai will inevitably face the same fate.

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