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EC’s role to ‘develop’ political parties questioned for possible manipulation

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QUESTIONS HAVE been raised about the appropriateness of the Election Commission (EC) joining hands with politicians on newly-established bodies, instead of inspecting them.

A committee to “develop” political parties in line with the charter’s national reform approach was established on Tuesday per order of the EC president Supachai Somcharoen. The committee is headed by Anek Laothamatas, honorary member to Thammasat University Council, who has a record of working with the ruling government and was keen on the reconciliation approach. 
The committee also consists of Pheu Thai Party’s secretary-general Phumtham Wechayachai, Democrat Party’s deputy leader Chamni Sakdiset, Bhum Jai Thai Party’s leader Anutin Charnvirakul, and Chart Thai Pattana’s key figure Nikorn Chamnong, as well as some experts and academics. 
Phumtham and Chamni confirmed that they had been asked to join the committee but had yet to know when the first meeting would be held.
According to the EC’s acting secretary-general Poompitak Kong-kaew, the committee is designed to conduct a “strategy, plan, and approach” to develop political parties in line with reform approach as stipulated in the charter draft.
The committee is also expected to create public awareness on parties, encourage public participation to parties, oversee the EC’s budget on party development and ensure that the EC’s party affairs follows the strategy.
On February 28, Supachai also ordered a subcommittee to be set up to oversee public relations of the EC’s budget on political party development. Headed by EC deputy secretary-general Sawaeng Bunmi, the subcommitee is also joined by Pheu Thai’s Kamol Bundaipetch, Democrat’s Pongsri Tharapoom and Kitsangkhom’s Sayompoo Kiatsa-yompoo and some academics.
Some observers are concerned that the establishments of the two bodies is not in line with the charter’s political party reform approach.
The charter draft’s Article 258 highlights that political parties must perform transparently with a responsible mechanism. The organic law draft of parties’ Article 73 also reduces a parties’ representatives in the EC’s budget board, while its Article 77 stipulates that parties, once receiving the budget, must notify the EC prior to expenditures to allow for inspection by the commission.
Given these conditions, observers doubted that the EC would be able to fully scrutinise the parties, as politicians are part of the bodies. The subcommittee on public relations might become PR channels used by politicians.
Poompitak insisted yesterday that the parties’ representatives were invited personally and that any decision from them should have nothing to do with their affiliation. “There are only representatives from major parties because too large committee may not work fluidly,” he said.
He also said that the committee is not an order from the government, and emphasised that it is a mere attempt by the EC to work in line with the government’s reform approach.
Meanwhile, the Constitution Drafting Commission chairman Meechai Ruchuphan, while refusing to directly comment on the new committee, noted that an independent organisation needs to work in line with the government to bring integration in task performance.
“The charter draft says that the government will carry out reform action plans while other organisations can come to support,” Meechai said. “But whatever results come out should be returned to the government for further consideration.”

Published : March 08, 2017