Committee to mull primary vote clause

Committee to mull primary vote clause

Meechai Ruchupan, the junta-appointed head of the Constitution Drafting Committee has appeared at the regime's National Legislative Assembly (NLA) to defend the bill to require political parties to hold primary elections. (Bangkok Post file photo)
Meechai Ruchupan, the junta-appointed head of the Constitution Drafting Committee has appeared at the regime's National Legislative Assembly (NLA) to defend the bill to require political parties to hold primary elections. (Bangkok Post file photo)

The National Legislative Assembly (NLA) on Thursday approved the setting up of a tripartite committee to review the controversial political party bill and iron out differences.

The panel, comprising the chairman of the Election Commission (EC), five NLA members and five charter writers, will meet for the first time on Tuesday.

It will focus on the controversial primary vote which was introduced in the bill during the NLA's scrutiny.

Political parties were among the staunchest critics of the primaries, which would require party members to vote in choosing candidates to stand in a general election expected late next year.

The Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC), which wrote the organic bill, the NLA and the EC have held informal talks on the contentious points. These included the EC's role in supervising the primaries and the accountability of party leaders and executives for vote-buying in the selection of MP candidates.

CDC chairman Meechai Ruchupan insisted Thursday the EC should be kept clear of the primary vote. While it would be allowed to look into alleged irregularities in the primaries, the agency should not initiate or take legal action, he said.

He said any parties that detect cheating in the primaries would be required to file criminal complaints with the police without the EC intervening, noting that a primary vote was considered an internal affair for a party, not an election.

"Political parties must investigate and party leaders must take responsibility. If they file false complaints, they must take responsibility, which could mean a political ban, not the dissolution of a party," he said.

According to Mr Meechai, some NLA members suggested the latter should be a penalty.

CDC member Udom Rathamarit, who sits on the tripartite committee, said there seemed to be some agreement on the primaries.

He said it was unlikely a rule would be introduced calling for the dissolution of a party in the event of election fraud because the new constitution has no provision for this.

The proposed criminal penalties drew criticism from politicians.

Democrat deputy leader Nipit Intarasombat said the party was not opposed to primaries but that it wanted to see the new system developed first.

Nikorn Chamnong, adviser to the Chartthaipattana party's leader, said introducing criminal proceedings against cheats in the primary vote was acceptable but not the rule on dissolving parties.


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