EC under the microscope
With just about a week to go until the general election, the Election Commission (EC) is still facing a crisis of confidence over its impartiality and competence.
As election campaigns have gathered pace during the past few months, the EC -- whose seven commissioners are appointed by the military regime's lawmakers -- has acted in favour of pro-regime political parties by dismissing complaints made against them over alleged election law violations. At the same time, it has actively probed allegations of wrongdoing against their arch-rivals, the anti-regime, pro-democracy parties.
Then, when overseas voters became the first group to cast their ballots early this month, the agency failed to prove to the electorate that it is a competent poll organiser. There have been reports that the EC's fact sheets gave inaccurate information about a number of candidates, most of whom are from anti-regime parties.
For example, a number of candidates complained that their names were placed under a political party they do not belong to and information about their education and professional background was inaccurate. This could confuse voters and make them feel uncertain whether they are casting their vote for the right person or the right party.
The EC has defended itself by saying these were technical errors that occurred during page formatting of the documents and urged voters to cross-check candidates' information on its Smart Vote mobile application.
What happened indicates that the EC's quality control over its information management must be lax.
Disappointingly, the EC has not clarified how many fact sheets contained such errors and what quality control measures it has put in place to ensure that this and other errors will not occur during the early voting tomorrow and on the poll date of March 24.
Due to the favouritism it seems to have given the pro-regime Palang Pracharath Party, whose prime ministerial candidate is junta leader and Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, some voters now have reason to wonder whether the election will be rigged. The agency needs to disprove such claims by ensuring that the entire electoral process is as transparent as possible, especially during the early voting tomorrow.
About 2.6 million of the 51 million eligible voters have registered for early voting nationwide. For now, many are still clueless about how the EC will safeguard the advance voting ballots during the one-week period prior to the vote-counting process on March 24.
Chadchart Sittipunt, a Pheu Thai prime ministerial candidate, has proposed that closed-circuit TV cameras should be installed at every station where the ballots will be kept and footage from these cameras must be broadcast online on a 24-hour basis and be accessible to all. Unless the EC has a better alternative, it should adopt Mr Chadchart's proposal, which is practical, transparent and cost-effective.
At the same time, the EC must stop bullying anti-regime parties. This week, EC chairman Ittiporn Boonpracong launched a probe into the plan by politicians from the disbanded Thai Raksa Chart party to shift supporters' votes to another party.
Mr Ittiporn's investigation is an absolute farce. The politicians have the right to express their support for any party and those parties should not be punished or dissolved because of this.
The only priority for the EC is to ensure that all the election processes are transparent and run smoothly. For now, this task still seems to be a tall order for the poll agency.
Bangkok Post editorial column
These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.
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