NLA rejects 2 EC member hopefuls
Somchai and Pirasak fail to make the cut
published : 13 Jul 2018 at 04:00
newspaper section: News
Two of seven candidates vying for a Election Commission (EC) seat were rejected by the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) on Thursday. However, the EC is still able to function with just five commissioners, according to those with authority on the matter.
The NLA spent almost three hours voting on the seven finalists: Santhat Siriananpaiboon; Itthiporn Boonprakong; Thawatchai Therdpaothai; Chatchai Chanpraisri; Pakorn Mahannop; Somchai Charnnarongkul; and Pirasak Hinmuangkao.
The candidates must win at least 123 votes, more than half the total NLA membership, to clinch an EC seat.
Mr Somchai and Mr Pirasak received low scores and failed to be selected. Mr Somchai, the former chief of the Department of Agricultural Extension, obtained only three votes for and 193 votes against with no abstentions.
Mr Pirasak, a former governor, garnered 28 votes for, 168 votes against, and five abstentions.
The candidate with the highest votes in favour was Mr Itthiporn who received 186 votes for, 10 votes against, and five abstentions. Mr Itthiporn is the former director-general of the Department of Treaties and Legal Affairs, according to a source in the NLA.
The source said the NLA debated at length on the qualifications and track record of Mr Somchai before voting.
Several lawmakers said Mr Somchai faces legal complaints before the National Anti-Corruption Commission for alleged dereliction of duty while he was department chief in connection with the large-scale embezzlement of the Klongchan Credit Union Cooperative. Mr Somchai also concurrently acted as cooperative registrar.
The NLA members were concerned that if Mr Somchai was elected commissioner, his job would be cut short if and when he was convicted of the charge, which would disrupt the EC's work, the source said.
Mr Pirasak, on the other hand, drew heavy debate in the assembly over his political affiliation. Election commissioners, as members of an independent agency, have to remain politically neutral. Of the seven finalists, two were picked by the assembly of the Supreme Court judges and the five others by a panel led by the Supreme Court.
Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam insisted the EC can adequately function with five commissioners.
The five will replace the current election commissioners once their selection is royally endorsed. There used to be five EC members previously but two seats were added under the present constitution. Vacancies for the remaining two commissioners will be filled later. However, Mr Wissanu voiced his disagreement with an idea being floated by political experts to invite persons to fill the two slots.
The deputy premier said that while no law prohibits the invitation, it requires discretion in deciding who should be invited. Once the new commissioners start working, the poll preparations can get underway. NLA president Pornpetch Wichitcholchai will present the five names to His Majesty the King for endorsement after which they will vote among themselves to choose a new EC chairman.