June 19, 2017 01:00 By Kasamakorn Chanwanpen The Nation
But groups fear other negative repercussions
ALTHOUGH THEY have contrasting views on whether the “reset” of the Election Commission (EC) is justified, critics and politicians have agreed on one thing – the move is not perceived as hindering the next election.
After the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) on June 9 passed an organic law governing the EC in three consecutive readings, people have been divided on the probable misfortunes that will befall the present commission.
Some said the EC members had to be dismissed along with the obsolete constitution of 2007 now the country has a new Constitution with new rules. Others disagreed, saying the commission’s current members should be allowed to remain in office until their original terms end in 2020.
Political critic Sukhum Nualsakul said he agreed that the EC as well as other independent agencies should be reset to square one because the country was under a different Constitution that had different regulations for the agencies in regard to their qualifications and the number of commissioners.
A former rector of Ramkhamhaeng University, Sukhum also agreed with Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam, who had alluded to the need for a reset to unify the EC and prevent the issue of “fish coming from two waters”, referring to the selection process for sitting members following two separate procedures. The political critic said independent agencies had been a source of conflict, so they should be reset to give the country a fresh start.
Many people have questioned whether the move could give the current regime the upper hand in the next election, but Sukhum said he thought it was unlikely.
“I don’t think they want to get rid of the current EC in order to get a new batch dominated by them,” he said. “First, people sitting in these agencies are mostly former senior civil servants and they want to serve the national interest after they retire. I doubt they want to sell their souls.”
Sukhum said he did not think the coup-appointed regime would select people who were unduly under its influence. The required qualifications and appointment process would not allow that to happen easily, he said.
Asked whether the legislation and selection process could put off an election, Sukhum said the election could be postponed, but the reset of the EC would not necessarily do that.
“It’s a technical issue there. The legislative process could prolong the current rule. If it is delayed, so be it,” Sukhum said. “But I don’t expect much anyway. They [the junta leaders] never set a specific date or anything. There’s no guarantee from the start. They can do whatever they want.”
Veteran politicians from Chart Thai Pattana and the Democrat parties agreed that replacing the existing EC members would not affect the so-called election “road map”.
Nikorn Chamnong, a Chart Thai Pattana senior member who also sits in the National Reform Steering Assembly (NRSA), said he believed preparation for an election could still proceed although the agency responsible for holding it was facing internal difficulties.
“I think it’s a different story. Although there will be selection process, we still have lots of time. I think they can manage,” he said.
Nikorn, former deputy transport minister, said what was more worrisome was the fact that the reset could become a norm and have a domino effect on other agencies.
“If the EC is reset, then the rest might have to be, too,” he said, adding that was not fair because incumbent members would not be able to run for their posts again, because that was prohibited by the new Constitution.
Democrat Party deputy leader Nipit Intrasombat said he did not believe changes at the EC and other independent agencies would delay the promised election, but he did not think the election would take place any time soon.
“Everything will still follow the road map despite the EC issue,” he said. “But this does not mean the election will happen soon. They [the junta leaders] will just use up all the 240 days they have [under the road map].”
In regard to concern that the National Council for Peace and Order could pack the EC with biased new members to protect its interests in the election, both politicians said they were unsure about the prospect.
Although Nipit did not agree with the reset, he said it was too soon to tell if new members of the election agency had an agenda.
“There are many possibilities. A new EC could be better or worse than the current one. We don’t know. Nobody does,” the veteran Democrat politician said.