Thai Raksa Chart plans 'Vote No' strategy

Thai Raksa Chart plans 'Vote No' strategy

Aims keep supporters out of other parties

Gloomy TRC supporters console each other after hearing the Constitutional Court's dissolution decision - but they already have a political Plan B. (Photo by Varuth Hirunyatheb)
Gloomy TRC supporters console each other after hearing the Constitutional Court's dissolution decision - but they already have a political Plan B. (Photo by Varuth Hirunyatheb)

The dissolved Thai Raksa Chart Party (TRC) is taking a defiant stance in the wake of Thursday's court action, as it plans to encourage its supporters to vote "no" in constituencies where the Pheu Thai Party has not fielded candidates to pave the way for the party to gain more votes in election reruns, a TRC source said.

The source said the TRC, which has been disbanded by the Constitutional Court, is prepared to maintain its voter support base to prevent supporters from falling into the hands of other parties looking to capture potential votes in constituencies where the TRC was earlier expected to win.

The total number of MPs is capped at 500, of which 350 are elected from constituencies and 150 from the party lists, which will be proportionally allocated to each party based on the number of votes from constituencies.

The TRC, which is closely affiliated with the former ruling Pheu Thai Party, has fielded 174 candidates in the constituency system and 108 candidates in the party-list system.

Pheu Thai has fielded 249 candidates in constituencies where it has the strongest chances of winning, and 131 candidates in the party-list system.

This means Pheu Thai's candidates have no presence in 101 constituencies where TRC was expected to win.

However, TRC now plans to launch a "vote no" campaign to ensure the number of "no" votes will be higher than the number of votes gained by winning candidates in those constituencies, which will effectively annul the voting results as stipulated by the constitution, and will lead the Election Commission to hold election reruns.

This will open the door for Pheu Thai to field candidates to contend in the reruns and capture votes in those constituencies, the source said.

The TRC was set up to beat new election rules designed to undermine major parties' chances of winning a majority of House seats.

Speculation has been rife that TRC will focus on bringing in party-list seats while Pheu Thai will work on capturing MPs in the constituency contest.

The new system, where even votes cast for losing MP candidates are counted toward their respective party-list candidates, has been criticised for favouring small- and medium-sized parties at the expense of larger ones, like Pheu Thai.

Princess Ubolratana, who was in Berlin at a tourist fair, tweeted shortly after the court ruling, saying, "I already knew. This is sad and depressing."

After the ruling, Thai Raksa Chart Party leader Preechaphol Pongpanit said he and the party executives profoundly regretted the Constitutional Court's decision to disband the party.

"The party dissolution most certainly affects the rights and basic political freedoms, at least for the MP candidates and the people [who are TRC supporters] hoping to vote in the March 24 election," he said.

He thanked his supporters for sticking with the TRC despite the party being relatively young -- with just four months under its belt.

"We were working to move the country in the right direction and to create something constructive for the country," he said, his voice quivering. Even though he and the party executives face a 10-year political ban, they can contribute to the country in different ways. "We will see you again when we get the chance," he said.

Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said the TRC party members are free to move to other parties but they cannot register as MP candidates for those parties because they have not been members for at least 90 days, as required by the law on parties.

Mr Wissanu, who is a noted legal expert, said it is now official that the TRC no longer exists and any ballots cast for the party on the election day are considered moot. Udom Ratamarit, a former constitution writer, said the banned executives cannot be MPs, members or executives of any parties, or independent agency members. They must keep well clear of all activities of political nature. He added that the lack of a lifetime political ban on the 13 TRC executives was seen as a lenient move on the part of the court.

Jade Donavanik, chairman of the Faculty of Law at the College of Asian Scholars, said the ruling has set a precedent that the court reserves the power to determine the degree of severity of the offence, which is reflected in the length of the ban imposed by the court.

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