Ballot format to be decided next week
The Election Commission (EC) is expected to decide next week on the format of the ballot paper for the upcoming general election.
Nat Laoseesawakul, the EC deputy secretary-general, will meet Tuesday with its support agencies to discuss the issue and forward the proposal to the EC for consideration.
"The EC Office needs to prepare terms of reference [ToR] to find manufacturers. By early next week it should be settled," he said.
The format of the ballot paper has drawn a great deal of attention following a "suggestion" by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha's National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) that the names and logos of political parties should be removed from it.
It was reported that the idea was floated by Gen Prayut during a pre-election talk at the Army Club last Friday involving the NCPO, the EC and representatives from political parties.
However, Mr Nat said later that the idea was not suggested by the prime minister, but was proposed at a recent EC meeting by someone he did not identify.
Mr Nat said a ballot paper without the names and the logos of political parties is a solution for overseas voters in case the standard ballot paper cannot be delivered in time.
"It is information the EC Office will present to the EC for consideration. It doesn't mean the EC has picked the format. We're trying to cover all the possibilities. If we insist on printing the standard ballot paper only, do we have enough time to send the reserve ones if the first batch goes missing?" he said.
Mr Nat said the proposed format of the ballot paper is unlikely to be against the law and that the EC will also discuss the management of reserve ballot papers with the Foreign Ministry.
EC secretary-general Jarungvith Phumma reiterated Monday that the EC has yet to decide on the format of the ballot papers and will listen to opinions on the issue from all involved.
He said the EC has limited time to make preparations for overseas voters if the election is to take place on Feb 24. Based on the election timeline, overseas voting is scheduled to proceed between Feb 4-16.
He called on parties not to focus on the controversy and said EC is expected to finalise the issue by Dec 19.
Meanwhile, the suggested removal of the names and the logos of political parties continues to draw protests from parties and academics.
Prinya Thaewanarumitkul, an academic at Thammasat University, said the names of political parties must be present on the ballot paper because the election is not just about picking candidates but also determining policies.
He said that the 2017 charter also requires MP candidates to contest under the banner of political parties, so it is therefore a must that the names of their parties be included.
According to Mr Prinya, by removing the names of political parties the EC will be undermining the constitution's principles, which encourage voters to cast their ballots based on policy platforms.
"Removing logos from the ballot paper is possible. But the names must be there," he said.
Wutthisarn Tanchai, secretary-general of the King Prajadhipok's Institute, called on the EC Monday to intensify its efforts to educate the public about the single ballot papers.
Mr Wutthisarn said a large number of voters, based on the results of an opinion survey, are unaware that a single ballot will be used for both the constituency and the party-list system.
On the proposed removal of logos, he said he believes parties would have to communicate with voters to reduce misunderstanding.
Under the law on the election of MPs which takes effect Tuesday, the old system in which candidates and the parties they stand for shared the same ballot number has been scrapped. Numbers will now be assigned on a first come, first served basis during candidate applications.