NCPO 'out to destroy parties'

NCPO 'out to destroy parties'

Rivals see hidden registration agenda

Top executives of the Pheu Thai and Democrat parties believe the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) is trying to destroy them.
Top executives of the Pheu Thai and Democrat parties believe the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) is trying to destroy them.

Two political parties have criticised the regime for undermining parties across the board by imposing a strict party membership reconfirmation process, which saw surprisingly few reconfirm them by Monday's deadline.

However, they said reduced numbers were not likely to impact their respective standing at the general election that has now been delayed until February.

Democrat Party deputy leader Ong-art Klampaibul told the Bangkok Post that only 100,000 of the Democrat Party's 2.5 million members reconfirmed their memberships with the party by midnight on Monday.

This was not unexpected given that Order No.53/2017 issued by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) has caused myriad problems for party members, he said.

According to the NCPO's order issued last December, members of existing parties were required to reconfirm their membership and pay related fees between April 1-30, or they would lose their membership status.

On April 11, the Constitutional Court accepted petitions by the Democrat and Pheu Thai parties asking it to rule on the validity of the Section 44 order amending the organic law on political parties.

The Office of the Ombudsman decided to seek a court ruling on whether the order violates the charter, based on the two parties' petitions which were filed separately. They slammed the order, claiming it affects people's right to party membership guaranteed by the constitution.

Mr Ong-art said Tuesday that party members had to reconfirm their membership in person and pay an annual membership fee of 100 baht -- or 2,000 baht for lifetime membership -- compared to the previous system based on voluntary donations.

He said the reconfirmation process did not warrant such a sense of urgency and called the deadline unnecessary.

He added that party members who fail to reconfirm their membership status would have to wait for the NCPO to fully lift the ban on political activities, which is expected in June, before they could reapply.

However, Mr Ong-art said he was confident the low count would not adversely affect his party's prospects in the poll.

The party secured more than 12 million votes in the party-list system in the previous poll even though only 2.5 million members had registered at the time.

"What is happening now is the NCPO is showing its desire to destroy political parties," he said.

''This will not only reduce the number of our members but also stunt the development of democracy."

"The NCPO's proclamation that it will step in to shape up politics runs counter to the results of this order," Mr Ong-art said.

He said the 100,000 members who have reconfirmed so far would be sufficient for the party to organise primaries, where members choose the candidates they want to stand in the elections.

He said the primary vote system could drive a wedge between party executives and members if their choice of candidates differs.

Key Pheu Thai member Chaturon Chaisang told the Bangkok Post that about 10,000 of the party's 130,000 members had reconfirmed.

The NCPO has effectively managed to weaken parties, particularly the two major parties, Mr Chaturon said, adding the NCPO's Order No.53/2017 has undermined the credibility of the parliamentary system.

Some critics believe the NCPO wanted to undermine public confidence in various political parties and that such low counts suggests the policy has been a success.

Mr Chaturon said Pheu Thai must recruit at least 50,000 fee-paying members to ensure it meets the requirement to nominate candidates for the primaries.

Under the organic law on political parties, those wanting to field candidates under the constituency system must set up branches or appoint representatives in those constituencies. Candidates must have been nominated by branches or representatives.

Each branch must have at least 500 members in its jurisdiction while representatives are appointed in constituencies where there are no provincial branches of the parties and there are more than 100 party members.

Parties will set up selection committees to recruit potential MP candidates.

These committees will verify applicants' qualifications and forward their names to party branches or representatives, who will hold meetings where party members vote between them.

The names of the two candidates who win the highest number of votes will then be presented to party executives for endorsement.

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