Expelling junta ghosts
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Expelling junta ghosts

As the Senate election is more than halfway through, with the final voting due to take place next week, the country is set to have a new Upper House in a matter of weeks.

On Tuesday, the Constitutional Court threw out petitions claiming that four controversial sections of the Senate election law may be in breach of the charter. With such a favourable ruling, the Election Commission (EC) can proceed with the final stage of the race.

Some 3,000 applicants were shortlisted for the district- and provincial-level contests. The next voting is scheduled for June 26 at the Impact Arena in Muang Thong Thani, Nonthaburi. According to the timeline, the results are expected on July 2. Under the election rules, the 10 top candidates with the highest votes in each professional group will become senators. Another 100, or five from each group, will be placed on a list of reserves.

In recent weeks there have been numerous reports of alleged poll irregularities. There were claims of fraud or suspected poll-rigging in several areas. Some failed candidates, like former policeman Santana Prayoonrat, complained of "block voting" to give certain candidates an advantage.

Some candidates even joined the race without voting for themselves, suggesting they may have been proxies for others. There have been concerns of collusion in some areas such as Khon Kaen, as a number of contestants gave their votes to other candidates who pulled in an exceptionally high number of votes in the first round. Similar incidents were recorded in the southern province of Trang.

Those complaints demonstrate the legal loopholes in the Senate election law that fail to effectively address cronyism. Interest was low in this election, with about half of the anticipated number of candidates having applied for the race.

As a result, a number of influential people with close ties to local politicians and their networks were able to join.

The EC has organised the election in a closed system with below-par public communication. It must take the blame for the low level of public participation and the prevailing disregard over the Senate's importance in scrutinising the government's performance and in appointing independent agencies. The poll agency's harsh rules have discouraged the public from being part of such a crucial election and this makes it easy for collusion and manipulation driven by cronyism.

The EC should tackle these problems, particularly cases of poll fraud and alleged collusion, on a case-by-case basis, rather than allowing them to snowball to the point where the election is disrupted or becomes null and void.

If the process is derailed, the outgoing Senate will stay on in a caretaker capacity. With its complicated and questionable rules, the Senate election, as stipulated by the military-sponsored charter, is far from perfect.

Yet new senators must be better than their outgoing colleagues given that half of the latter were picked by the coup makers. The old Senate's role in electing a prime minister, in line with the provisional clause of the charter, was a poor compromise of democratic principles. That's out the door too.

Senate elections in this country have taken several forms -- direct, indirect and hybrid systems -- as well as appointments by the junta. The latest election may not secure an independent Senate, but it's time the country leaves the junta's legacy behind.


Bangkok Post editorial column

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

Email : anchaleek@bangkokpost.co.th

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