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‘No poll delay’ as NLA sends Senate bill to top court

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THE SENATE selection bill will be submitted to the Constitutional Court for review today after the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) and the Constitution Drafting Commission (CDC) failed to agree on certain issues.

The MP election bill, meanwhile, will not undergo the same process despite a dispute over whether to deprive people who fail to vote of the right to hold political offices. Legislators have said they are worried the election could be further delayed if the MP election bill were challenged.
Meanwhile, various authorities said the road map to the election, which is currently scheduled for February next year, remained unaffected, while politicians said they were losing hope that the election would be held as promised. 
The development came after CDC chairman Meechai Ruchupan expressed concerns over the constitutionality of the two bills, which are the last two organic laws necessary for the election, and urged the NLA to seek the Constitutional Court’s judgement before problems occurred.
The NLA concluded during its approval of the Senate bill last week that the senators could be independent or from professional associations.
The CDC expressed a different view, insisting the point was not in line with the Constitution, which stipulated independent candidates.
After discussions among some NLA members yesterday, it was decided to forward the Senate bill to the court. It remained unclear yesterday what specific issue the NLA would ask the court to address. 
The charter requires one-tenth of the NLA to agree to bring the matter to the Court. Somchai said there should be at least 41 legislators signing the petition today. 
 Somchai Sawangkarn, a member of the law review joint committee and NLA whip, said yesterday legislators might seek a court ruling on issues different from that which concerned Meechai. Despite the petition, Somchai said the road map would not be affected. 
“The Constitutional Court usually takes about three months to consider a case. And because the enforcement of the MP law has been put off by 90 days, too, we decide to only submit the Senate law,” he said.
CDC spokesman Chartchai Na Chiangmai concurred that the 90-day gap provided by the MP election law had made a Constitutional Court judgement possible without further delaying the poll.
Meanwhile, critics said they viewed the move as “another conspiracy” to delay the poll. The much-anticipated election has already been delayed several times due to complications in the legislative process. 
Nipit Intrasombat, a deputy leader of Democrat Party, said he did not expect the election to take place early next year. It did not make sense that the NLA would now express doubts about the bills that they had approved themselves, he said.
“It’s hard to look at it another way. This is their work. If there’s anything wrong, they should have known,” the veteran politician said. “They should not have let it go this far before deciding it’s unconstitutional.”
In a related development, the amendments of laws concerning the election of local administrations could be expected to be completed next month, according to Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam.
Wissanu said he had already asked the Council of State, which is responsible for the amendment, to work as quickly as possible.
Local elections are another determining factor ahead of the general election. Authorities have said they should take place before the national polls, while critics have said the general election could only take shape after local polls.

Published : March 15, 2018