Government rejects trying to delay elections
KEY GOVERNMENT figures insisted yesterday that the rejection of the Election Commission (EC) candidates by the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) would not have an impact on the election roadmap, and insisted there had been no interference in the process as speculated.
Deputy PM Wissanu Krea-ngam, the government’s legal adviser, said the issue would not affect the election because it was just a sub-roadmap planned under the main one and the extension of related procedures was still within the main timeframe. The new round of EC candidates’ nominations and selections, he added, would yield the new EC members by May, one month before June, the final deadline before the 150-day election preparations kick-starts. But if that was not the case, the present EC members could still hold the election, Wissanu said.
He downplayed a scenario that the second round could still fail to yield the new EC members, saying he did not want to presume that and provoke concern. He also dismissed a suggestion that the new qualifications set for new EC members were too strict, saying that the matter had been addressed by the law and could not be changed.
The new charter imposed more stringent qualifications for members of other independent agencies and there had been no problems for them obtaining new members, he said. Wissanu said it was not the selection committee’s fault because it merely picked the names from the list. He also rejected speculation that the junta had interfered with the process, saying he personally did not believe that anyone would take orders from the junta as they held their voting in secrecy.
He said the NLA members would have thought similarly about the EC candidates. In Thursday’s closed-door meeting, the NLA voted overwhelmingly to reject all seven candidates put forward for the commission. Another round in the selection process began immediately and by law will have to be completed within 90 days. The law requires that candidates receive at least 125 votes out of a possible 248 in the NLA to become election commissioners. The seven named yesterday fell short of that. NLA president Pornpetch Wichitcholchai maintained that the initial candidates’ rejection would not affect the government’s election “roadmap”.
Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan said the NLA’s decision was entirely its own and the military junta had nothing to do with it. “No, no, there was no order from the junta at all, none. The NLA just proceeded with the matter following its procedures,” said Prawit. He also said the rejection of EC candidates would not affect plans for local elections “for now”. The situation would be clearer by June, when political parties must be ready to contest the election, he said.
Assistant Professor Adisorn Naonont of Nakhon Ratchasima Rajabhat University said the public had good reason to suspect there had been an order behind the scene because every single candidate had been turned down. The NLA should explain the reasons to make things clear. The professor said the rejection, however, was unlikely to affect the roadmap. He said it should be expected because the junta wanted to get people they are satisfied with since they are going to contest the election. Those writing the rules tend to write them in such a way as to advance their goals, he said.