Primary-vote penalties draw flak

Primary-vote penalties draw flak

A National Legislative Assembly panel plans to make political parties which fail to properly organise primary voting liable to severe penalties under criminal law - with jail terms, fines, revocation of election rights and party dissolution.

A Parliament source said the representatives from the NLA panel vetting the political parties organic bill and the Constitution Drafting Committee had met to discuss the bill.

They reached an initial agreement that organising a primary vote was an internal affair of a party and not part of an election. However, the party and its executives could face criminal punishment for three types of offences if the primary vote is mishandled.

If a party misses a step in a primary vote, its leader and executives will face a jail term not more than six months and a fine not more than 10,000 baht. The court will also be asked to revoke their election rights -- the right to vote and the right to run in elections -- for five years. 

A party or its member who promises benefits, intimidates or defames others, or creates a misunderstanding about its popularity, will face a jail term of 1-10 years or a fine from 20,000 to 200,000 baht, or both, and a revocation of election rights.

A member who demands benefits will be punished with 1-5 years in jail, or a fine of 20,000-100,000 baht, or both, and face a revocation of election rights. A court will also be asked to disband his party. 

Upon hearing the news, politicians immediately cried foul, saying such an idea would further undermine political parties.

They said primary votes were a new concept and parties should be allowed to learn and adjust naturally,  without the fear of severe punishment. They also disagreed strongly with the party dissolution penalty, saying it was unconstitutional. 

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