Election Commissioner Somchai Srisutthiyakorn on Tuesday criticised new poll regulations that he said will make it difficult for small political parties to win House seats in a general election, let alone nominate a prime minister for the House to vote on.
His comments came as up to 46 social and political groups, as of on Tuesday, had applied to the Election Commission to establish parties to contest the polls tentatively scheduled to take place in February next year.
Mr Somchai said he had done some calculations which were based on the 70% voter turnout in the previous election, or about 35 million people.
With 500 MP seats up for grabs in the next poll, a party would need 70,000 votes to win a House seat, he said. And to be eligible to nominate a prime ministerial candidate for the House to vote on as required by the new rules, a party must have at least 25 House seats.
According to Mr Somchai, it would not be easy for small parties to win 25 House seats to be eligible to nominate a premier.
Based on his calculations, he said a small party would need to win at least 1.75 million votes from their constituency candidates to be allocated 25 seats from the party list.
This would mean they would have to win about 5,000 votes in each of 350 constituencies to get 1.75 million votes, he said.
Under the new system, the total number of MPs is capped at 500, 350 of whom are elected from constituencies and 150 from the party lists which will be proportionally allocated to each party based on the number of votes from constituencies. The votes cast for losing constituency candidates will still be used to calculate the number of party-list seats.
However, Mr Somchai said an election would require more than public participation.
A small party would need 40-50 million baht to cover election expenses, he said.
According to Mr Somchai, application fees for each candidate are 10,000 baht and would amount to 3.5 million baht in total. While big political parties are expected to spend about 1.5 million baht per head, small ones may spend 100,000 baht each, coming to 35 million baht.
"So, a small party would need 40-50 million baht in the election and that can't guarantee their candidates will win 5,000 votes each. So those who say elections are about public participation may have to think twice," he said.
On Facebook, Mr Somchai also took aim at a requirement for new parties to come up with one million baht to be contributed by 500 founding members within 180 days.