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Activists say EC ‘reset’ risks pubic disapproval

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Decision to dismiss commissioners seen as attempt to gain edge in next election by selecting NCPO allies.

POLITICAL CRITICS have told the regime and its National Legislative Assembly (NLA) to provide a good explanation to the public about the dismissal of the current election commissioners, as the move could result in criticism and the appearance of a hidden political agenda.
Meanwhile, Seri Suwannapanon, chairman of the National Reform Steering Assembly’s political reform committee, said he believed changes to the Election Commission (EC) would not affect the election schedule although he conceded it could provoke a degreee of controversy.
Suriyasai Katasila, director of the Thai Reform Institute, said yesterday the move to reconstitute the EC could become another political scandal with people perceiving there was a hidden agenda unless the NLA could ensure the new EC had better governance.
The move could even be perceived as biased and a political game that did nothing to boost the public’s faith, he said, making the “reset” meaningless.
The comments came after the NLA voted last Friday to pass an organic law governing the EC, which looks like to result in the removal of the current five commissioners.
Suriyasai said he was not certain if the NLA’s decision would create a precedent for members of other independent agencies, who could also face dismissal, such as the Human Rights Commission.
Whether other agency members would be replaced like the EC five would depend largely on constitutional stipulations and the judgement of the NLA’s vetting committees, he said.
“However, the committees must clarify the issue to the public to prevent any confusion. [They must] explain what the reset is responding to and whether it will lead to reform of the independent agencies,” Suriyasai said.
Under the new charter “independent” agencies have more power than those under previous constitutions, he said, adding that the problem was not a lack of power but of independence.
Ongart Klampaiboon, deputy leader of the Democrat Party, also said the NLA must be able to provide answers to the public as well as ensure transparency about the new selection process. 
However, the politician said any decision in the future to reset other agencies should be based on stipulations in the new charter. He said the new charter had considerably empowered the agencies to regulate the government as well as to enforce the law. 
Ongart said although legislators were authorised by the Constitution it did not mean they could act arbitrarily without considering fairness and the rule of law. 
If the NLA could not give good a explanation to the public, it was possible people would believe recruiting new commissioners was unjust and lead them to distrust the new election bosses from the start, Ongart said. Ultimately, the new commissioners would find it hard to work under such an atmosphere, he said.
To justify the make-up of the new commission, Ongart said recruitment should be done with transparency and without political influence.
An academic and political critic from Nakhon Ratchasima Rajabhat University, Adisorn Nawanon, said the removal of the election commissioners could be meant to secure the junta’s interests in the next election.
He said the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) did not want to lose its grip on power and could select loyalists to run in the next election. To champion its interests, the NCPO could be resetting the EC to pack it with friendly commissioners, Adisorn said.
The academic said he believed the new commissioners would be NCPO loyalists because the selection committee had been appointed by the regime. 
But, Adisorn said he agreed with the reset, adding that the new seven-member chamber would work together better rather than just adding two new members to the existing five.

Published : June 11, 2017