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NRC aims to create a 'primary vote' that produces 'good' MPs

NRC aims to create a 'primary vote' that produces 'good' MPs

MONDAY, August 17, 2015
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VETERAN politicians and experts gave mixed ideas to the National Reform Committee (NRC)’s political reform panel on how to get better candidates for Parliament.
The majority agreed with a proposed “primary vote” for party MP candidates. 
This proposal is part of the NRC’s “Blueprint for Change” released to the public and handed to Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha last Thursday. 
One measure to help the screening of “good men” to Parliament was to adopt the primary vote – or for party members to select MP candidates in each constituency so voters can have representatives who are true candidates.
But former Democrat MP Thawil Praison expressed his party’s concern over the primary vote, saying it was nearly impossible to practise this system because political parties come in so many different sizes. 
“How could we carry out [the vote] equally on every party, when only some of them can nominate candidates in all constituencies?” he said. 
It is also not clearly stated in the proposal, Thawil continued, how primary voting should be managed: whether all parties should hold it simultaneously, or they could organise it on their own, or the Election Commission (EC) would manage it. 
And the move couldn’t solve the problem of vote-buying, he added, as long as the EC lacks the efficiency to get rid of it. 
The primary vote is, however, regarded differently by former Pheu Thai MP Jatuporn Prompan, who believed the system would press candidates to produce tangible work in the eyes of the people.
The now-defunct Thai Rak Thai Party also practised the system and even pushed it as a national priority – but failed to achieve it, Jatuporn claimed.
Thammasat University political scientist Attasit Pankaew supported the primary vote system, saying it could create a balance of power between political parties and MP candidates.
Previously, he explained, candidates had to please their parties and practically became employees rather than representatives.
But with this system, they would have more bargaining power with their parties, and would be able to respond to the needs of voters in their constituencies more than before.
He also argued that the system would support the creation of a national reconciliation government, as proposed by some NRC members. 
“With this system, voting results of each candidate should be more distinct from each other. This will create mixed-member proportional representation, that will eventually bring about reconciliation-government based on MPs from various backgrounds.”
However, he said some details in the whole reform plan – like how to prevent external influences from meddling in politics – still had to be worked out.
Siripan Nogsuan Sawasdee, a political scientist from Chulalongkorn, also supported the primary vote, because it would promote more communication between parties and people.
However, she thought that it should be optional for parties to hold the primary vote, as it centres on internal affairs. She did not agree that, if it became mandatory, the EC might have to use people’s taxes to fund small parties who could not manage on their own.
Another measure to help eradicate political patronage in politics was a prohibition of candidates from donating or making merit in their constituencies a year before elections, to prevent vote buying. 
Jatuporn disagreed with this, saying “That is just cultural and completely another thing.”
Both Thawil and Jatuporn agreed that the proposal on political reform would not be truly practical “because it’s written by people who never participated in an election”.
Siripan said the reform proposal seemed to be based on distrust of politicians. “This will become a barrier entry that discourages people from entering the political arena, and will eventually [lead to a] political monopoly, in the long run.”
The report is concentrated on controls over politicians, she added, and still lacking principles of scrutiny and support.
  Plans from the NRC panel on political reform
  Political parties
To prevent them from being influenced by financiers; 
Parties’ structures, missions, roles and member selection procedures should be adjusted, with more synchronised relations between parties and people. 
Scrutinising mechanism 
One-tenth of MPs can propose to the Senate speaker that an independent investigative committee be set up to scrutinise and investigate allegations of wrongdoing by political office holders and take them to court for criminal penalties and impeachment.
Electoral system
Reform of qualifications of parliamentarian candidates; 
Reform of election campaigns to reduce inequality through budget gaps of each candidate;
Reform of organisational structure and authority of the Election Commission, including more measures against vote buying.
Independent organisations 
Organisations such the Anti-Money Laundering Commission, National Anti-Corruption Commission, State Audit Commission, National Human Rights Commission, and Ombudsman, to be made more organised with the capacity for adjustment.
People’s political learning and 
Establishment of a committee of civic education; 
Establishment of an approach to public hearings;
Operational adjustment to the Office of the Official Information Commission;- 
Political empowerment at the people level.