Embattled EC plans to fight back

Embattled EC plans to fight back

The five election commissioners celebrate the EC's 19th anniversary at their office at the Government Complex on Friday. (Photo by Apichit Jinakul)
The five election commissioners celebrate the EC's 19th anniversary at their office at the Government Complex on Friday. (Photo by Apichit Jinakul)

Despite their comments to the contrary earlier, election commissioners are unlikely to take the hit lying down after the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) passed a law that would remove them from office.

The NLA voted 177-1 on Friday to pass the election bill, one of the eight key laws needed to be passed before the general election can be held.

Apart from restructuring the independent organisation, the law drafted by constitutional writers increases the qualifications of the EC commissioners to a level that some current members would automatically be disqualified once the law takes effect.

But the NLA took a step further. Instead of approving the law that would disqualify only some of the members, it amended the original version so that all five incumbent election commissioners will have to be shown the door once the law takes effect.

It reasoned the move to "set zero" on the EC was necessary for political reform. Besides, since the number of commissioners was raised to seven from five, it made sense to wipe the slate clean to avoid having "fish in two waters" -- a situation where the commissioners' terms end at different times. 

After a lengthy debate, the NLA voted 161-15 to "set zero" on the EC on Friday. 

But the EC argued the move was unfair to them because the law didn't allow a commissioner to serve more than one term. Removing the commissioners today deprives them of the right to reapply.

Besides, the EC claimed other independent organisations also had the same "fish in two waters" situation but somehow they did not get the same treatment.

With the current EC gone, the NLA can appoint all seven members of the new EC.

The EC will hold a meeting on Wednesday with its legal advisers to determine whether it has issues against the law. It is allowed to bring up its objections within 10 days after its passage.

A joint panel will then be set up within 15 days if the EC submits its arguments against the bill.

EC commissioner Boonsong Noisophon said on Monday by passing the law, the NLA might have breached rule of law it required to upheld when performing its duty under the 2017 constitution.

"Personally, I also view the passage is against customary laws since the bill's principles were changed drastically by the NLA's panel and in the second reading to the point it is very different from the version approved in the first reading.

"Two NLA members pointed out during the debate that it might have been in violation of a provisional clause which sets the direction of the entire legislation. In the past, this gave rise to problems that required constitutional court intervention," he said.

The NLA panel also cut four issues that the EC had proposed without giving them a chance for debate, he added.

As he will next year be 70, the retirement age for an EC commissioner, Mr Boonsong said the fight was not for himself. "It is for righteousness, as well as the honour and dignity of our organisation."

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