Prayut irked by criticism of polling map

Prayut irked by criticism of polling map

Politicians speak out against EC's redraw

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on Friday hit back at politicians who have complained about the fairness of the redrawn electoral map. (Bangkok Post file photo)
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on Friday hit back at politicians who have complained about the fairness of the redrawn electoral map. (Bangkok Post file photo)

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on Friday hit back at politicians who have complained about the fairness of the redrawn electoral map, saying their fate depends on the judgement of the voters rather than how the constituencies are divided.

He was speaking as he chaired a meeting of a national strategy committee at Government House on Friday.

At one point, Gen Prayut appeared to lose his temper during the meeting, using an obscenity.

"Media outside just kept nagging me about the constituency demarcation ...? M********. Are they [politicians] going to drop dead because of all this rubbish?

"Things will go by the rules. I know nothing about it [the constituency demarcation]," the prime minister said.

He said that the redrawing of boundaries is based on the growing population size in each constituency compared to previous elections.

"How much have things changed over the past four to five years? But they still want the same old things. No matter how they [constituencies] are changed, if people do not choose you, you will not win. Let's leave them to their fate," Gen Prayut said.

"It doesn't matter how constituencies are divided or which party you join. If the people do not vote for you, you're finished. Don't look down on people," he said.

Government spokesman Buddhipongse Punnakanta later said the premier had apologised for using impolite language.

Politicians' opinions are split on the Election Commission's (EC) announcement of the new electoral boundaries with many from major parties criticising it as a move to provide an unfair head-start to a pro-regime party contesting the next poll.

Earlier, gerrymandering fears spread after the regime issued an order giving the EC more time and immunity over the redrawing of the electoral map.

On Nov 16, the NCPO invoked Section 44 to give the EC more time to address complaints from parties and voters, saying the earlier drawing of constituencies had failed to take public input into account.

The NCPO's order No.16/2018 permitted the EC to make changes to boundaries until Dec 11 when the bill on the election of MPs takes effect, which was much later than earlier expected.

Some politicians and critics labelled it an attempt by the regime to interfere with the poll preparation process so constituencies could be divided up to deliver maximum electoral benefits for the pro-regime party, understood to be the Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) led by Industry Ministry Uttama Savanayana.

The PPRP has made it clear it will support Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha in any bid to reclaim the premiership after the poll.

Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva on Friday spoke out against the redrawing, saying the new boundaries are unjustified and undermine the both the EC's credibility and the election process itself.

Mr Abhisit said several constituencies have not been redrawn in line with the law, but nothing could be done about it because the EC has been given immunity by the NCPO's order.

"If the order had not been issued, the redrawing of the constituency boundaries would have violated the law and the constitution," the former prime minister said.

He gave an example of Sukhothai where the number of MPs in total was not changed but a district, Kong Krailat, was divided to accommodate four MPs.

"I have to let the people know about such behaviour. I believe the people will disapprove of those who take such an unfair advantage over others," Mr Abhisit said.

Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon yesterday insisted the NCPO had no influence over the EC's decisions. He said the NCPO's order was merely issued to address complaints about the process.

EC chairman Ittiporn Boonpracong reiterated that the constituencies were redrawn in compliance with Section 27 of the bill on the election of MPs and shrugged off criticism that the new constituency boundary map was written to benefit the PPRP.

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