New law to cut political parties to one-seventh

New law to cut political parties to one-seventh

Election commissioner Somchai Srisutthiyakorn thinks the newly drafted bill on political parties will considerably reduce their number. (Photo by Chanat Katanyu)
Election commissioner Somchai Srisutthiyakorn thinks the newly drafted bill on political parties will considerably reduce their number. (Photo by Chanat Katanyu)

The newly drafted bill on political parties may see the number slashed to 10 from the present 72 based on their records of financial support, an election commissioner said on Thursday.

Election commissioner Somchai Srisutthiyakorn said the bill will reduce the number of political parties within three or four years because within that timeframe a party would be required to recruit 20,000 members and collect annual supporting fees of at least 2 million baht.

No more than 10 political parties gathered 2 million baht of donations annually, so the number of surviving parties in the future should be capped at that level, Mr Somchai said.

Commented on the details of the draft organic law on political parties that the Constitution Drafting Committee released on Wednesday, the election commissioner said the document was intended to encourage strong parties with the potential to produce quality work and become institutions.

"It will be difficult to found a political party. There must be founding members, and start-up funding of at least 1 million baht must be collected from them. Each member must pay a yearly support fee of at least 100 baht," Mr Somchai said.

That might be superficially viewed as a burden on political parties, but it would mean that they would be based on real members who had ideals and dedication to work for their party, he said.

The bill requires a political party to have 20,000 members in its first four years and have four branches to cover all regions of the country with at least 5,000 members at each regional branch. Mr Somchai said that the branches would have a say in selecting election candidates.

The dissolution of political parties would become more difficult because prosecution of an errant member would effect only the individual, he said.

The election commissioner noted that authorities would have to ensure fairness between old and new political parties.

"Regarding the collection of the 1-million-baht start-up fund from 500 founding members, old parties can use their assets as the fund," Mr Somchai said.

Nattawut Saikuar, a former MP of the Pheu Thai Party and a leader of the red-shirt United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship, said on Thursday that all parties would comply with the new rules, but he pointed out that the collection of party support fees would screen out some groups of people.

The required minimum number of members could also pose problems for newly formed or small parties, he said.

Mr Nattawut supported the planned role for party branches to take part in selecting election candidates.

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