EC shows it's not biased
published : 13 Mar 2014 at 00:38
newspaper section: News
The Election Commission’s (EC) belated decision by 3:2 votes to yellow-card Bangkok Governor MR Sukhumbhand Paribatra more than one year after the governor election on March 3, 2013 came as a big surprise not just to the governor and his team but also to over one million Bangkokians who voted him into office for a second term.
After the ruling, which has yet to be finalised by the Region One Appeal Court, Governor Sukhumbhand was reported to have complained that the EC’s verdict should have come sooner.
He said the EC took about one year to deliberate his case and the ruling was delivered as the country was "burning," in apparent reference to the current political impasse.
The governor appears to have a valid point about the EC taking too long to wrap up his case although he did not suggest the EC had dragged its feet. Of course, the EC may have hundreds of cases of electoral fraud still pending and these cases must be considered in order of priority.
Election commissioner in charge of electoral affairs Somchai Srisutthiyakorn explained that the yellow card was issued against the governor because his supporters made incriminating speeches against Pheu Thai Party candidate Pol General Pongsapat Pongcharoen.
Mr Somchai said that rendered the governor election unfair in accordance with Article 57 (5) of the local election law.
However, the EC did not find MR Sukhumbhand guilty of involvement in the slandering of his political opponent. It also decided not to take criminal action against the alleged slanderers.
The EC’s ruling will be submitted to the Appeal Court tomorrow for consideration. The court has two choices. One is to uphold the EC’s decision, in which case a fresh governor election will be staged within 45 days and Governor Sukhumbhand, like the other candidates, can contest if he so wishes. The other is to dismiss the EC’s ruling which will mean the governor’s status remains intact.
Election commissioner Somchai was right when he said that the EC’s decision to yellow-card Governor Sukhumbhand should serve as a lesson to election candidates and their supporters to refrain from slandering or making incriminating remarks against one another in the next elections.
He also warned that there are still several similar cases under the EC’s consideration and the EC would not hesitate to issue more yellow cards or red cards if there is adequate evidence of election law violations.
Besides serving as a lesson, the EC’s action in this case should send a message to the Pheu Thai Party and the other parties that the EC is not politically biased against them.
The EC has recently come under heavy criticism from the Pheu Thai Party and the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship for its handling of the Feb 2 election.
Several election officials are facing legal action initiated by the government under the suspicion that they are impartial or supportive of the anti-government protests.
The EC has three tasks to fulfil this month and in April. The Senate election on March 30, elections on April 5 in Bangkok, Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat and Prachuab Khiri Khan and elections on April 27 in Chumphorn, Nakhon Si Thammarat, Phuket, Satun, Phang-nga and Ranong for voters who missed the advance polling on Jan 26.
For the tasks to be accomplished, the EC needs full support from the relevant agencies and, moreover, better understanding from the Pheu Thai Party.