List seat saga 'may drag on'

List seat saga 'may drag on'

Ex-EC member maps out court's options

People turned up to cast their vote during advance voting at Matthayom Ban Bang Kapi School in Bang Kapi district on March 24. (Photo by Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)
People turned up to cast their vote during advance voting at Matthayom Ban Bang Kapi School in Bang Kapi district on March 24. (Photo by Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)

A former member of the Election Commission (EC) that is overseeing the March 24 poll voiced concern on Tuesday that a controversy over the way party-list seats are calculated and allocated would drag on with no clear solution even though the matter has been referred to the Constitutional Court.

The court is due to meet on Wednesday. The agenda is expected to touch on the EC's decision last week to petition the court for a ruling on the validity of its methodology, in the wake of fierce criticism from key political parties, according to a source close to the matter.

Somchai Juengprasert, who served with the EC from 2006-2013, said the court may not accept the case for review, or it may refuse to comment on the calculation method and rule only on the legality of the organic law governing the election of MPs.

Some political observers including Mr Somchai said there is good reason to believe the court will choose not to interfere and leave the matter entirely in the hands of the poll agency.

Mr Somchai cited another case concerning the authority of the EC that was referred to the same court when he served as a poll commissioner. The court rejected the case, adding it was not designed to be the EC's legal adviser.

In a statement issued on April 11, the EC said it wants the court to rule on whether it can calculate the party-list seats in a way that would award them to parties that garnered fewer votes than required under the mixed-member proportional (MMP) representation system used in the poll. It has also sought guidance on whether this calculation method complies with Section 91 of the constitution.

How the matter is settled will decide which parties -- between Pheu Thai and the pro-regime Palang Pracharath (PPRP) -- would be able to lead the formation of a coalition government. The PPRP is reportedly pinning its hopes on a dozen small political parties, which would be allocated one seat each if the EC's method is used.

Mr Somchai proposed another method in which only 16 parties would be allocated party-list seats. He insisted those that captured fewer votes than the number required to get a party-list seat should not be eligible for one.

"Those votes are not wasted because they are counted and calculated as part of the party-list seat allocation process. But since they were 'defeated' in the election, the seats should go to parties that garnered more votes," he said.

Thanakrit Vorathanatchakul, a prosecutor attached to the Office of the Attorney-General (OAG), outlined four possible scenarios on Tuesday that might take place in the wake of the EC's petition for a judicial review.

In an article posted on his Facebook page, Mr Thanakrit said it was unclear whether the court would accept the EC's petition.

In the event it is rejected, he saw two possible motivations.

First, the court may decide that no real dispute has arisen, because the EC has yet to make an official decision on what calculation method it will use.

Second, the EC has the jurisdiction and authority to allocate party-list seats in line with the charter and the aforementioned organic law, so the court may argue the matter does not constitute a legal dispute over the EC's authority.

If the court accepts the petition, it may or may not comment on the contentious calculation method, Mr Thanakrit said.

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