Poll likely to hit further snags

Even if the general election can be held on Sunday as scheduled, it could still face further legal hurdles which will render it invalid, Election Commission member Somchai Srisuthiyakorn says.

  • Published: 31/01/2014 at 12:00 AM
  • Newspaper section: topstories

Members of a pro-election group light candles at Benjakitti Park on Sukhumvit Road yesterday, as city office workers hold placards supporting reform before the poll. THITI WANNAMONTHA AND PATIPAT JANTHONG

He made the comments on his Facebook page yesterday, while other legal experts made the same observation. Those supporting the government's stance, however, argued this is not necessarily the case.

Mr Somchai said that shortly after Sunday's poll, opponents of the election are expected to file lawsuits to have it invalidated on the grounds that it must be held nationwide on a fixed day as stipulated by the constitution.

Mr Somchai said that after the election anyone can petition the Constitution Court to rule against the poll since it will not be held on a single day.

He added if the poll becomes null and void, the 3.8 billion baht which has been spent on holding the election will go to waste.

Mr Somchai said he had explained to the prime minister about the 28 constituencies in the southern provinces which have no candidates because protesters blocked candidate registration last month.

Even if the election is held, parliament cannot convene because the number of MPs will fall short of the necessary 95% of the total 500 as required by the constitution, making it impossible to form a new government.

Mr Somchai said this problem will be solved in two to three months after Sunday's poll if candidate registrations are held again and at least three constituencies have candidates who manage to register.

Regarding the 125 MPs in the party-list system, Mr Somchai said the EC cannot formally announce winning candidates as it has to wait for election results from all polling stations nationwide, which number about 99,000. Without the results from all of them, the vote count cannot go ahead.

It is predicted that as many as 10,000 polling stations nationwide will not be open for voting and poll reruns therefore must be held, which could take at least four to six months, Mr Somchai said.

Advance votes were also needed before all the 375 winning candidates in the constituency system can be formally announced, Mr Somchai said.

About 2 million people could not vote in advance voting last Sunday and a new round of voting outside constituencies has now been scheduled for Feb 23. The vote count can begin only after ballot papers are delivered to each polling station, Mr Somchai said.

Considering the resistance to the poll, it may take three to four months to announce some winning candidates and four to six months to announce at least 95% of the 500 MPs to meet the constitutional requirement, he said.

Mr Somchai said Bangkok is still short of about 4,000 election personnel to man polling stations in the capital.

He added that if any polling units are disrupted on Sunday, poll reruns may be held again on March 2. This will be decided on by the EC again.

He also warned that violence could escalate as a result of confrontations between supporters and opponents of the election.

Pokin Polakul, a member of Pheu Thai's strategic committee, yesterday said he also did not believe Sunday's poll could take place in the 28 constituencies in the South and parliament will therefore be unable to convene.

He also shared the view that petitions will be filed with the Constitution Court asking it to invalidate the poll.

However, Mr Pokin insisted the election must go ahead on Sunday as planned and criticised the EC for not doing enough to solve the problems.

Legal expert Meechai Ruchupan expressed his view in an article entitled''Should we go to vote?'' that the election could become null and void if it cannot be held simultaneously nationwide on a fixed day. He also wrote that the government and the EC could both risk having criminal and civil lawsuits being levelled against them.

Former EC member Prapun Naigowit said he did not believe Sunday's election could be nullified.

He brushed aside arguments by poll opponents that it would not be able to take place nationwide on a fixed day.

Mr Prapun said the Feb 2 election is still considered a national election under a royal decree and the four-year tenure of MPs begins after Sunday's poll under the constitution.

He said the EC is duty-bound to hold elections in the 28 constituencies in the southern provinces which have no candidates and in constituencies disrupted during advance voting last Sunday. This is only a postponement of elections at certain polling stations, not a postponement of the national election on Sunday.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra yesterday said that Sunday's poll is an important occasion for Thais to exercise their voting rights to determine the future of the nation.

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Writer: Aekarach Sattaburuth & Patsara Jikkham

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