Last chance for the EC
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Last chance for the EC

As preparations for the May 14 polls progress, all eyes are on the Election Commission (EC) amid doubts over the agency's neutrality. The EC is faced with a dilemma similar to that which arose during the 2019 polls, when its organisation of the election was riddled with complaints and allegations.

The public was sceptical on that occasion, if not frustrated, with bizarre explanations from the EC involving ghost ballots, with a disparity between the number of voters and ballots counted in some constituencies. More importantly, an unusual MP seat calculation formula back then gave small parties a big windfall while depriving big parties such as Pheu Thai of the chance to form a government.

The EC's image took a further beating when it issued rulings in favour of government parties including a dubious fund-raising banquet held by the Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP), compared with its tough stance involving the government's rivals such as the then-Future Forward Party.

Mistrust in the EC has escalated this time after the agency came up with a peculiar plan to incorporate non-Thais in the population used for redrawing constituency boundaries. The plan was nullified by the court. Now the agency has been criticised for its dubious constituency-mapping that raises concern over what could be gerrymandering.

Public distrust in the seven-member EC concerns its origins, given the commissioners were named by the junta-installed National Legislative Assembly (NLA). Unless there is political mishap, this will be the last national election to be held by current commissioners whose terms will come to an end in 2025 -- the same year junta-leader-turned-politician Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha's term ends.

Even as the EC led by Itthiporn Boonpracong struggles to clear its name, the courts of justice, apart from the charter court, have embarrassed the agency with rulings concerning its mistakes, if not misconduct.

Take for example a ruling by the Supreme Court's Election Division that countered the EC's decision to disqualify Surapol Kietchaiyakorn, a Pheu Thai candidate-elect in Chiang Mai, in the 2019 election. The agency issued him with an orange card that banned him from politics for 10 years, as well as court action.

But the court saw the matter in a different light. It did not think Mr Surapong's 2,000-baht donation, and a clock, to a temple constituted a crime that could cost him his poll victory. The Appeal Court ordered the EC to pay 62 million baht in compensation to the politician.

In addition, the National Anti-Corruption Commission has penalised former secretary-general of the Election Commission (EC) Nat Laosisawakul for negligence with regard to the late delivery of over 1,540 advance votes from Thai citizens in New Zealand before the March 24, 2019 election.

As a result, Mr Nat is likely to face a charge of dereliction of duty, in accordance with Section 157 of the Criminal Code, and could face a jail term of one to 10 years, and/or have to pay a fine of between 20,000 and 200,000 baht.

Those blunders should serve as a lesson for the EC. If the commissioners look at the fate of their predecessors, they will see that some paid a high cost, namely imprisonment, for their mistakes.

So the EC should take this opportunity to avoid mistakes and do its utmost to make things right. It's the only way for the agency to restore its honour and the public's trust.

Editorial

Bangkok Post editorial column

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

Email : anchaleek@bangkokpost.co.th

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