Party-list seen as a tool for reform

national July 28, 2014 00:00

By Kris Bhromsuthi
The Nation

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THREE PROMINENT Bangkok academics have proposed a reformed Parliament based in part on increasing the number of party-list members.
Chaiyan Chaiyaporn, a lecturer in political science at Chulalongkorn University, Attasit Pankaew, a lecturer in political science at Thammasat University and Satithorn Thananithichote, a researcher at King Prajadhipok’s Institute, agreed there is a need to increase the number of party list members of Parliament (MPs) as part of parliamentary reform. They also drew attention to electoral systems that produce representatives from all social groups, as part of electoral reform.
Attasit suggested that increasing the number of party-list MPs could pave the way for more capable and experienced candidates who lacked a constituency support base to participate in the Parliament.
He suggested the number of party-list MPs should equal the number of constituency MPs. “More seats for party-list MPs would give them greater opportunity to represent their electors. Furthermore, this would produce people with ability and experience to solve a national problem, rather than a local problem, to have more chances to participate,” he said.
Satithorn said that increasing the number of party-list MPs would also better reflect national support of political parties. Hence, a political party popular on a national level, but less successful on a constituency level, would be allocated more seats in the Parliament.
“If we look back to the general election of 2011, assume that we had an equal number seats between constituency and party-list MPs. The parliamentary seats allocation between Pheu Thai and Democrats would have been a lot closer, since the Democrats were more successful in gaining party-list votes than constituency votes, while it was the other way round for Pheu Thai,” he said.
Satithorn stressed there must be a mechanism to ensure appropriate criteria for selecting party-list candidates. “We must make sure that candidates on the list have the appropriate ability and work experience, rather than a list full of party financial backers.”
 “Explicit rules of law could be added into the Constitution, stating there must be an equal proportion of representatives from various social groups, and clear responsibility for regulation could be delegated to certain independent organisations, for example the Election Commission,” he added.
Attasit agreed that there must be rules and regulations for party-list members. He suggested the first 35 names on the party-list should also be candidates for ministers and the prime minister. As a result, it would draw more public attention and examination.
At a KPI seminar last week, Permanent-Secretary of Defence Surasak Kanjanarat, in charge of national reconciliation and reform, said he had been forced to vote for people he did not wish to be an MP as there was no better choice among the candidates. 
Meanwhile, former Election Commission member Prapun Naigowit said party-list MPs’ voting solved the loophole of a “winner take all” principle in voting for constituency MPs. He believed the proportion of party-list MPs at 25 per cent of the total was reasonable.
Prapun also said a bigger constituency would result in less vote buying.
Chaiyan said a enlarging constituencies and allowing multiple winners could improve chances of minority representatives winning seats.
“In a smaller constituency, assume there was a candidate who came from a business background, and another candidate from the working class. In an election, the business-oriented candidate received 10,000 votes while the working class-oriented candidate got 9,000. This would mean those 9,000 voices accounted for zero representation. By comparison, a bigger constituency would give a chance for working-class voters to join the numbers. The chances are that their representative would be one of the candidates elected, and hence the system would have paved the way for the wider inclusion of all social groups,” he explained.
Attasit said that he believed the current electoral system produced MPs who worked for party leaders rather than the people. Having a primary run-off could solve this problem, he added.
“I think one of the key problems in Thai elections is that political party leaders select their constituencies’ candidates, who then feel obliged to those leaders. As a result, they work for party leaders rather than representing the people. They are under the influence of political parties,” he said.
“We can minimise their influence by having a primary vote. It could take place perhaps six months prior to a general election,” he added.
“The implication is to take the power of candidate nomination from party leaders to the people. That way it could minimise the influence of political parties on candidates,” Attasit explained.

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