NLA delays vetting poll watchdog contenders

NLA delays vetting poll watchdog contenders

Court asked to explain its selection process

The National Legislative Assembly (NLA) has delayed its vetting process to certify the qualifications of seven Election Commission finalists following a complaint over the selection method of the two picked by the Supreme Court.

NLA member Wallop Tangkananurak submitted a motion in the assembly yesterday, seeking to delay the vetting process. The motion was seconded by several lawmakers, including Gen Ood Buangbon and Nipattha Amararattanametha.

The names of seven Election Commission (EC) finalists were presented to the NLA to scrutinise their qualifications before stamping its approval.

Of the finalists, five were chosen by a selection committee and the other two by the Supreme Court. EC member Somchai Srisutthiyakorn questioned the two court-selected finalists, claiming they may not have come through an open vote, as required by law.

The Supreme Court, on its part, has reiterated its selection process complied with legal requirements.

In his motion, Mr Wallop said the vetting should be halted to allow time for the Supreme Court to write, at the request of the NLA, in defence of its voting process.

The court picked Chatchai Janpraisri, chief justice of the Supreme Court, and one of its judges, Pakorn Mahannop, to serve as election commissioners under its quota. They were chosen at separate meetings.

Mr Chatchai was named at a Supreme Court meeting on Nov 17 and Mr Pakorn on Dec 6. The two won the commission seats with a majority vote in the plenary meetings.

Mr Wallop said the NLA should not deliberate on the qualifications of five finalists chosen by the EC selection-panel first because if their appointments were approved, they would have the power to pick an EC chairman from among themselves, unfairly leaving the two court-selected finalists out of the race.

NLA vice-president Surachai Liangboonlertchai said yesterday that since no NLA lawmaker objected to Mr Wallop's motion, the assembly has resolved to defer the vetting of all seven EC finalists pending receipt of an explanation from the Supreme Court. The NLA president will now formally ask the court to furnish a detailed explanation of its selection method.

When doubts over the court's vote to select its two representatives have been cleared, the NLA will appoint a vetting panel to check the backgrounds of the seven finalists, according to Mr Surachai.

Mr Somchai said a senior Supreme Court judge he consulted had told him the intention of the new law requiring an open vote is to get those involved in selecting the EC finalists to be accountable for their decisions. An open vote would also stave off any foul play in the selection, Mr Somchai said, referring to instances where selection panelists may have been prone to lobbying or manipulation to favour a certain candidate.

Mr Somchai cited Section 12 of the organic bill on the EC which makes it compulsory for both the selection panel and the Supreme Court to choose finalists through open votes.

He explained that in an open vote, selection panel members tick the box on the ballot to choose a candidate and then cast it in a box. It is important that the ballot carries a serial number to help identify the person casting the vote.

Meanwhile, Constitution Drafting Committee chairman Meechai Ruchupan said in principle, if the ballots can help trace the voters, the selection process is considered open.

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