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Democrats to challenge Prayut’s Article 44 order

Democrats to challenge Prayut’s Article 44 order

MONDAY, December 25, 2017


THE DEMOCRAT PARTY will file a petition with the Constitution Court to determine if the latest National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) order to extend deadlines required for political parties to follow under the Political Party Act is unconstitutional under the charter approved in last year’s referendum.
Junta chief General Prayut Chan-o-cha last Friday issued an Article 44 order aimed at extending some deadlines in the Political Party Act, which came into effect in early October. The law was not then implemented because the junta has not lifted its ban on political activities. 
Political parties raised concerns over the short period of time for them to follow stipulations in the order and fear that they could lose many of their current members. The order gives party members only one month to decide whether they will stay with their current parties or review their political allegiances. 
Those wishing to maintain their party memberships must submit letters to confirm that choice to party leaders and pay membership fees between April 1 and April 30 next year, or they will lose their status.
Political party leaders have said it would be too difficult to have members submit letters in time. The order also states that existing parties will have 30 days, from May 1-30, 2018, instead of 90 days as stated in the current law, to update their lists of members with the registrar of political parties.
Nipit Intharasombat, the party’s deputy leader, said yesterday the NCPO’s Article 44 order contradicted the charter’s articles on people’s rights because the current party law stipulated that membership of political parties only expires if people do not pay their membership fee within four years. 
However, the new NCPO order gives them only 30 days to confirm their status and pay fees or else they will lose their status.
In this context, he said, people’s rights were seriously affected by the order, so the Constitution Court would be asked to weigh in on the crucial issue.
Meanwhile, Abhisit Vejjajiva, the party’s leader, started a new round of criticism against the NCPO order, saying the military should be more straightforward with the general public if it wanted to delay the general election, and it should cite good reasons in attempting to do so.
He said the controversial order requiring the re-registration of members of political parties that existed before the 2014 coup would also put established major parties at a disadvantage compared to new parties.
Competition in the election will not be on an equal footing since older parties will have some handicaps – such as restrictions on conducting early activities to win votes, while new parties will have more time to do so.
According to the NCPO order, from March 1 anyone can set up a new party and solicit members but older parties have to wait until April to start their activities.
On re-registering members of old parties, Abhisit said, major parties such as the Democrat Party, which has about 3 million members, would face a big challenge in meeting the deadline, especially if members are required to re-register in writing and pay fees within 30 days.
It was not sensible to argue that there were concerns about public unrest if all political parties were allowed to carry out their activities at an early date, he added.
He also said the NCPO’s exercise of its sweeping powers had become increasingly unclear during this transition period to return to a democratic path, which has been expected to lead to a general election in or around November next year.
In addition, Abhisit said, the NCPO has suddenly tied the working of political parties to the election law, resulting in less time for parties to prepare themselves for the nationwide poll.
Abhisit also cautioned that the NCPO should be more careful in exercising its sweeping powers. He said previous political incidents had shown that those who did not exercise restraint would soon lose their legitimacy.
Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam yesterday advised political parties to begin contacting their members via phone or online channels from today to avoid missing the deadline. 
Wissanu said from today until the end of March, parties could ask registered members whether they wished to stay on as members. If they did, he said, they would be able to submit a confirmation letter and pay membership dues from April 1 next year. 
Any member who failed to submit the letter by the deadline would still be able to register with any party later on, Wissanu said.