Pheu Thai prepares 'back-up' party

Pheu Thai prepares 'back-up' party

Wissanu says move would not be illegal

Setting up a "back-up" political party is not prohibited by law and such parties will not be considered as "political nominees", Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said on Friday.

He was speaking following a report that the Pheu Thai Party is likely to switch its members and potential candidates to a new party known as "Pheu Tham" (For Dhamma), a political outfit already registered with the Election Commission (EC), which is widely believed to be Pheu Thai's "back-up party" in the event of a "political accident".

Mr Wissanu, also a legal expert, said that the term "back-up party" is only casual language, but when it is put in legal context, it is still merely a political party and, as such, a back-up party is not forbidden by law.

Pheu Thai's fate is said to be hanging in the balance as it is under investigation by the EC for alleged violation of the constitution's organic law on political parties.

The EC probe was triggered by ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra making a video call to party members.

The law prohibits a party from agreeing to be influenced by an outsider, an offence that may lead to its dissolution.

The probe is widely thought by Pheu Thai members to be a move to kick the party out of the upcoming general election tentatively scheduled to take place in February of next year, a source said.

Mr Wissanu said that the new voting system will make every vote count, and therefore setting up back-up parties is a political "technique" used to secure votes.

The more votes a party wins in the constituency system, the less votes in the party-list system it will get. In light of this, a party may need to set up a back-up party to gain all those votes and this is only normal political practice as happened in the past, Mr Wissanu said.

Under the new voting system, the total number of MPs is capped at 500, of which 350 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, rather than being thrown away under the old first-past-the-post system.

Candidates who win the most votes in each constituency will still automatically become members of parliament, while the parties of unsuccessful candidates would still have a chance of securing a party-list seat in parliament.

Meanwhile, provincial election offices will display three proposed models for constituency boundaries for public comment from Oct 4-13, and forward the results to the EC for consideration.

EC chairman Itthiporn Boonprakong said yesterday that the redrawing of constituencies had progressed to a stage where provincial election directors could present the three models under consideration to residents in each area.

After receiving public input, the EC is expected to announce the new election boundaries by Nov 10.

Political parties have voiced frustration over the EC's guidelines on dos and don'ts since the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) partially lifted its ban on political activities and ordered the EC to redraw electoral boundaries before the election of MPs takes effect.

The EC chairman said the commission has followed the NCPO's orders. Political parties were allowed to use social media to communicate with party members, but not for election canvassing.

He was speaking during a meeting with political party representatives to discuss election guidelines.

Mr Itthiporn said the rules set for a general election under the new constitution were challenging for all those involved. Political parties should be well prepared and strictly follow the legal procedures.

To date, a total of 119 political groups have applied to the EC for registration of which 74 have been legally registered.

The registration of two more parties was being considered by the EC yesterday.

A political party must have registered capital of one million baht and must inform the EC of its intention to contest the poll within 90 days from Sept 14.

Political parties must have at least 500 members and pay membership fees within 180 days, also from Sept 14. The process, if not finished within the time frame, could be extended for another 180 days.

Political parties must hold assemblies to select party leaders by Dec 10.

The process, if not completed within the period, could be extended by another 90 days.

To field candidates, each party must set up an 11-member selection panel.

However, former prime minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, 86, yesterday held a media briefing in which he suggested "a way out political conflict for Thailand", at his home on Ram Intra Road.

He said more than 20 political parties will contest the next election under the new rules stipulated by the constitution.

"If we use the current system, this will lead to endless fights. Instead of letting the election go ahead, there should be no election. An interim government should be set up to solve problems facing the country and the previous 1997 constitution should be revived, with some changes," Gen Chavalit said.

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