Hold the EC accountable

Hold the EC accountable

Given that its seven commissioners were chosen directly by the military regime's lawmakers, the Election Commission (EC) should have tried to prove it is politically impartial and independent to gain the public's trust.

Instead, the agency has done several things -- in the lead-up to and the aftermath of the March 24 general election -- which have prompted many to accuse it of political bias and favouritism.

Now that the EC has endorsed the last three MPs this week following an election re-run in Chiang Mai, somebody needs to keep the agency accountable for its decisions before its credibility sinks to its lowest ebb.

Under the law, the state body that could keep the EC in check is the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC). Unfortunately, the NACC itself has faced a similar credibility crisis. Many of its commissioners were also appointed by the regime's lawmakers. Its previous record of clearing the regime's No.2 leader, Gen Prawit Wongsuwon, in the luxury wrist-watch scandal without sufficient explanation speaks volumes about its integrity. This is the unsettling reality for those trying to keep the EC accountable.

After the appointment of the election commissioners last year, the public still gave the EC the benefit of the doubt. But when it redrew constituency boundaries, many accused it of gerrymandering to favour the pro-junta Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP).

Later, the PPRP faced allegations of violating the election law for receiving donations from state agencies for its fundraising banquet last December. But the EC cleared the party with a seemingly irrelevant explanation, saying that none of the donors were foreign entities.

The EC's handling of the polls then proved to be flawed and plagued with irregularities detected at polling stations and during vote counting, prompting many to compare the latest polls to the country's "dirtiest election" back in 1967. Its decision not to count early votes cast in New Zealand as part of the poll results, due to their late arrival, left many perplexed.

People then became angry. In April, some organised petitions to oust the commissioners. Some groups have already filed complaints about the EC with the NACC, seeking the commissioners' impeachment. If the NACC finds there are grounds to the accusations, the cases could be filed with prosecutors with a final decision resting with the Supreme Court. But so far, no progress has been made by the NACC.

The EC's most controversial act came in May when it used a new calculation formula for the distribution of party-list MPs despite criticism that the method distorts the principles of the election law. The new formula gave 10 tiny pro-regime parties one seat each, even though their popular vote failed to meet the electoral threshold required by law. The decision has given the pro-regime camp the slim majority it requires in the Lower House to form a government.

Its latest move to seek the disqualification by the Constitutional Court of Future Forward Party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit from being an MP, accusing him of violating the media shareholding rule, has stirred criticism that it is a blatantly politically motivated attempt to end the anti-military junta politician's political career.

For an agency whose main goal is to ensure free and fair elections, the EC has disappointed the electorate with many inexplicable irregularities and seemingly unjust decisions. The NACC must do its job of keeping the EC accountable, otherwise it could be accused of negligence itself.


Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.

Email : ploenpotea@bangkokpost.co.th

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