NLA gets tough on local election regulations

NLA gets tough on local election regulations

Bold bid to raise the standard of candidates

The National Legislative Assembly (NLA) will consider amending six local administrative organisation (LAO) laws and has reaffirmed LAO elections will be held by the middle of this year.

Though the cabinet has not forwarded the draft amendments to lawmakers, the NLA has set up a committee to study issues slated for amendments, NLA deputy chairman Phirasak Phochit said yesterday.

Mr Phirasak said changes to the laws will focus on the qualifications of election candidates which must be rewritten in line with the new charter promulgated last April.

Interior Minister Anupong Paojinda said key amendments will be made to raise the standard of candidates vying for seats in LAO organisations.

Mr Phirasak said some LAO members are facing qualification problems under the new charter as they have been suspended from duty over graft allegations. Their rights to contest elections have not been stripped pending ongoing investigations.

The National Council for Peace and Order -- which issued a suspension order against the LAO officials by invoking Section 44 -- instructed investigators to speed up the probes so they can be wrapped up before local elections can proceed, Mr Phirasak said.

Mr Phirasak called on the government to finish the probe on officials soon so those in the clear can contest local polls.

They have faced tough scrutiny since 2015 when they faced suspension or transfers to inactive posts after the government launched a crackdown on corruption in state agencies.

The suspensions and transfers were made in a series of orders issued on various occasions.

In one order, dated June 2015, up to 70 state officials were removed from their jobs.

They included seven heads of provincial administrative organisations, 17 elected officials of tambon administrative organisations and 18 mayors or municipal council members.

Amendments to five LAO laws are being considered by the Council of State, the government's legal advisory body, while an amendment to the sixth LAO law is being handled by the Election Commission (EC) which supervises local elections.

The election watchdog plans to send its proposed amendment to the cabinet by Feb 23, its chairman Supachai Somcharoen said yesterday.

The amendment is made in accordance with the charter as well as its organic law on the EC which grants new powers to the commission, Pol Col Charungwit Phumma, acting secretary-general to the EC, said.

One example of the new powers is that an individual commissioner is authorised to suspend elections at certain polling stations or constituencies, he said. There is also a new scope of authority in ordering new elections and disqualifying candidates.

A total of between 30 and 40 issues will be proposed for amendments by the commission, Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said. Mr Wissanu, who oversees legal affairs, said he will wait for the submission of all six LAO amendments before forwarding them to the cabinet as this will make the ministers see the "whole picture" of local elections.

A focus will be given first on issues directly involving local elections, set to be held around the middle of this year.

Some other amendments proposed by the EC may need to be considered at a later date, Mr Wissanu said.

The Department of Local Administration said last week the LAO polls should take place between May and July.

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