Parties cry foul over draft law

Parties cry foul over draft law

Leaders and spokesmen of the top political parties were quick off the mark to criticise the new organic law proposed Wednesday by Constitution Drafting Committee chairman Meechai Ruchupan. (Post Today graphic)
Leaders and spokesmen of the top political parties were quick off the mark to criticise the new organic law proposed Wednesday by Constitution Drafting Committee chairman Meechai Ruchupan. (Post Today graphic)

Political parties have slammed a draft organic law concerning their fate, saying some points are impractical and contradict the principles of democracy.

Somkid Chueakhong, the former Pheu Thai Party MP for Ubon Ratchathani, voiced his opposition to a provision under the draft law which allows a party provincial branch to choose election candidates. He says selections via that method would risk domination by local financiers.

Under the draft law, party candidates running in a general election will be selected by a formal selection committee set up by the party.

This will consist of central party executives, party branch executives and party representatives in each province.

The selection of poll candidates should be entrusted only to party executives as in the previous system, Mr Somkid said.

He also disagreed with a proposed requirement for party members to pay an annual membership fee, saying this would turn people away from parties.

He stressed that, for poor people, even 100 baht is a lot of money.

"Some may want to join the party. But if they have to pay a high membership fee, this would shut the door on their chance to do so," Mr Somkid said.

Wirat Kalayasiri, head of the Democrat Party's legal team, said the problem of vote-buying remains unsolved and some people are still used to receiving money from parties.

Under the draft organic law, party members failing to pay their annual membership fees will have their membership terminated.

This would reduce the number of party members and could put a political party at risk of dissolution, Mr Wirat said.

Under the draft law, if a party cannot find 20,000 members in four years as required by the organic law, it would cease to exist.

Mr Wirat also disagreed with Section 23 of the draft organic law which requires parties to "resolve political problems through peaceful means for the sake of public happiness".

Section 97 of the draft organic law says parties failing to comply or engaging in acts that violate Section 23 may be ordered dissolved by the Constitutional Court.

He said this means parties would be banned from holding peaceful demonstrations, which could go against the principle of democracy and the right to peaceful public assembly guaranteed by the new constitution.

Nikorn Chamnong, director of the Chartthaipattana Party, said the Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) should review the draft organic law, particularly the section which requires parties to register their party members within 150 days of the law coming into effect, or parties would be banned from fielding candidates in elections.

He said the deadline would be hard to meet particularly for major parties with hundreds of thousands of members nationwide.

Deputy Democrat leader Ong-art Klampaiboon said the party has more than two million members, and it would be an extremely tough task to contact and verify all its members.

CDC chairman Meechai Ruchupan said Thursday the law was designed to make it easier to set up a political party.

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