Senate hopefuls pick 200 candidates
Process marred with claims of vote-buying
The Senate candidacy process has concluded with 200 candidates rounded off for final selection by the regime amid complaints of vote-swapping and vote-buying.
Election Commission (EC) chairman Ittiporn Boonpracong said the Senate candidate selection process at the national level finished early and smoothly with 200 candidates selected from a pool of 2,746 who were elected via intra-voting in professional and social groups.
In some groups, ties were resolved by drawing a lot to choose the winner, he said.
The names of 200 shortlisted candidates, nominated either by themselves or organisations, will be presented to the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) which will appoint 50 of them as senators. Another 50 will be kept in a reserve list.
The 50 appointees will join 194 other senators hand-picked by the NCPO. The six remaining seats are to be occupied by the armed forces leaders, the supreme commander, the defence permanent secretary and national police chief.
There will be 250 senators in total, who after the next election will take part in voting for the new prime minister. Mr Ittiporn noted that before the names of the 200 candidates reach the NCPO, the EC will spend the next five days running a final check to ensure there is no problem with each candidacy. After that, the EC will allow three days for filing any complaint about the Senate's candidate selection.
The names of the 200 candidates will be posted on the EC's website by tomorrow at the latest, the EC chairman said.
Among the prominent figures who made it through the final round are former EC chairman Supachai Somcharoen; former election commissioner Theerawat Theerarojwit; Gen Lertrat Rattanawanich, member of the national strategy committee on energy; Thana Benjathikul, personal lawyer of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, Pol Gen Asawin Narongpan, former commissioner of the Provincial Police Region 2; Gen Sawawut Chalor-yoo, former judge of the Supreme Military Court; and Seri Suparathit, former governor of the Provincial Waterworks Authority.
Mr Supachai said the intra-voting was problematic as too many candidates ended up with two marks in the scoring process. He suggested it should be replaced with inter-group voting.
Pol Maj Gen Montri Charanpong, chief of Kalasin police, said he won his place probably because he has many loyal police among his subordinates.
Meanwhile, Kamthorn Laosaphan, who failed to make the cut among the 200 candidates, said he planned to petition the Constitutional Court to nullify the Senate candidate selection. He said the pamphlets -- which the EC distributed introducing him to other candidates to win their votes -- contained a blurry picture of him. He had asked the EC to rectify but nothing was done. He argued this was the reason he has lost in the intra-voting. Mr Kamthorn received only one vote.
A Senate candidate, who requested anonymity, said that on the night before the vote, a group of candidates met in hotels on the outskirts of Bangkok to lobby for votes. Some were planning to swap votes while others came together to design a method to increase votes for themselves and for fellow candidates they knew personally.
An EC source said such acts amounted to collusion, which is illegal. They were detected in the intra-voting within some farmer groups influenced by politicians.
Worapol Bamrungsilp, from Bangkok, said a fellow candidate called him and offered to pay for his travel expenses to the voting venue in return for a vote for that candidate.