Senate race heats up as interest runs high
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Senate race heats up as interest runs high

Over 31,000 applicants hope to shape country's future

More than 31,000 people have asked for applications to apply for senators after the five-year term of 250 senators installed by the now-defunct National Council for Peace and Order ended on May 10.

The Election Commission expects about 100,000 people to apply for 200 senate positions.

Here's what you need to know about the upcoming Senate election.

Who can apply to be senators?

Thai nationals by birth and have at least 40 years of age can apply. They must also have at least 10 years of experience in their profession.

They must not be members of any party nor hold a political post. They must not work for government agencies or be among the present 250 senators.

They must not be owners of any mass media. They must be not be drug addicts, bankrupt or prison inmates during the past decade.

Former politicians or those who have positions in parties can apply if they have not held the position for at least five years.

How do candidates apply?

Those who are interested must choose one of 20 professional categories to fit in. The categories are those who have worked in the state service; legal; education; public health; farming; fishing, cattle farming and forestry; workers in the private sector and labourers; environment-related businesses; small and medium enterprises (SMEs); those who work for large enterprises, tourism, industrial operators; science, technology and innovation; women; seniors, those with disabilities and ethnic groups; artists and athletes, civic groups and NGOs; mass media and writers; freelancers; and others.

Those who apply must prove that they were born in, or studied, worked or lived in the district for at least two years. The application date is May 20-24 and the fee is 2,500 baht.

How do they vote?

People cannot directly vote for their senators. Only applicants have the right to vote. They will vote within a category in which they apply and later choose candidates from other categories.

The system is known as the "self-selection" process. It will be the first time the kingdom has applied the system.

Voting will have three levels: district, provincial and national levels.

At each level, there are two types of voting. The first vote is for candidates to choose two suitable people within their category. The top five votes of each category will be eligible for cross-group voting.

In case, the number of candidates in any category is lower than five, all candidates can get through. But if any candidates receive equal votes, a lucky draw system will be applied.

For the cross-group vote, 20 categories will be divided into four groups.

Each candidate will vote for one person from each category within their group. The top three votes of each category will pass to the provincial level. With this system, a province with a large number of districts like Bangkok (50 districts) will encounter fiercer competition than a province that has a few districts such as Phuket (three districts).

For the provincial level, only the top two with the most votes of each category will go to national level. At the national level, the top 10 in each category will be senators.

Timeline for voting and results?

After the registration period ends on May 24, the Election Commission (EC) will have five days before announcing the candidate list of each district on May 29.

The first election at district level will be held on June 9, followed by provincial level on June 16 and national level on June 26. The result will be announced on July 2.

Dos & Don'ts

According to the EC, candidates cannot canvas for votes. They can display their qualifications on two A4 pages when they send in their application. The information will be sent to other candidates in their district to decide who to vote for.

Candidates can use social media to provide information about themselves but can't give media interviews or hold public campaigns before the general public. They are banned from putting up posters, handing out brochures, organising any events to promote themselves, or mentioning the monarchy.

Candidates who get help from parties, politicians or other candidates will face punishment and will have their electoral rights revoked.

How can parties interfere with the vote?

Political pundits say the voting system has a loophole in which big parties can hire their people to apply and then vote for their people. In this way, parties can have some senators on their side to help pass laws.

What makes this election significant?

The Senate has a crucial role especially when the House wants to amend the constitution as at least one-third of senators would be needed to support it.

This new Senate will not have the right to vote for the prime minister, unlike the present 250 senators.

But they are still entitled to oversee the appointment of members of independent bodies that can influence national politics including the Election Commission, the Constitutional Court, the National Anti-Corruption Commission and the Attorney General.

The EC expects senators with diverse experiences and backgrounds will be able to represent a range of interests and work toward the good of society.

Lastly, the outcome of the election will demonstrate the strength of conservative or progressive groups, as well as whether senators are immune from political influence.

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