Bangkok poll still up in air
National EC to discuss local watchdog's annulment callThe more than 1.25 million supporters of Bangkok governor-elect Sukhumbhand Paribatra will have to keep their fingers crossed as the man they voted for in the March 3 election has yet to be endorsed by the Election Commission despite the record number of votes.
Election Commission member Sodsri Satayathum said yesterday that the EC was likely to endorse the winner first before it finds any solid evidence against him. "The EC is worried about issuing a red or yellow card before endorsing the election result. To do so, we would need to have clear evidence, and there is little time left for a new election," she said.
The five election commissioners will convene next week to discuss the recommendation by the EC's Bangkok office, Sodsri added.
The Bangkok EC rejected news reports that it had already issued a "yellow card" for Sukhumbhand, which would lead to a new election. It said it had simply recommended that the national EC nullify the election result.
"This is not true because I have no mandate to disqualify any candidates," Bangkok Election Commission chairman Pol Lt-General Thaweesak Tuchinda said, adding that only the national Election Commission had such powers.
As for its investigation into allegations of campaign violations involving Sukhumbhand, he said his commission would finalise its report today. This report will then be used by the EC to decide whether it should drop the complaints, hold a new election or disqualify the outcome and ban Sukhumbhand.
Previously, questions arose about the Bangkok commission's authority when its recent announcement made it sound as if it had yellow-carded Sukhumbhand. Several observers, including a member of the national Election Commission, reacted to the announcement by saying the Bangkok EC was overstepping its jurisdiction.
Sodsri yesterday said two complaints the Bangkok EC had spoken about had yet to be submitted to the national body, but once the reports were handed in, the EC secretary-general would decide whether further investigation was needed. If more investigation is needed, the EC will set up a subcommittee to look into the complaints and submit its findings to the commissioners within 30 days after the election.
Sodsri said that if the investigation could not be completed in 30 days, Sukhumbhand would have to be endorsed first, and if he is found later to have violated the election law, the EC will call on the court to disqualify him within a year.
She confirmed that only the national EC had the power to give yellow or red cards to candidates within 30 days after the election.
On Monday, Thaweesak announced that his agency had resolved with a majority vote to send two complaints against Sukhumbhand to the national election watchdog and implied that the governor-elect should be disqualified.
Only one authority
The act on the election of local councillors and administrators requires provincial agencies only to gather evidence and hand it over to the EC, regardless of whether these provincial agencies find grounds for complaints or not. Hence the Bangkok Election Commission and other agencies of its calibre do not have the authority to voice their opinions on the complaints or try to sway the national EC's decision.
Earlier, the national watchdog expressed dissatisfaction after several provincial Election Commissions implied in media interviews that they believed election results should be cancelled and a new vote held.
The EC said such comments were unacceptable and could be considered a form of pressure, especially since it had not yet made a decision on the issue. The EC also said it had it more experience and skills than provincial committees to consider such complaints. In terms of the March 3 election, Sodsri said the Bangkok EC should be reprimanded for making such statements.
"The investigations should have been confidential, and no results from the Bangkok EC can be considered final," she said. "The EC has warned provincial commissions that they cannot publicise details of cases that have not been finalised. Obviously, the Bangkok Election Commission might have misunderstood its role."