EC chief: Poll endorsement won't take too long
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EC chief: Poll endorsement won't take too long

Ittiporn says commission still gathering evidence in Pita's media-shares case

Election Commission chairman Ittiporn Boonpracong gestures during a news conference to update the vote count on May 15. (Photo: Varuth Hirunyatheb)
Election Commission chairman Ittiporn Boonpracong gestures during a news conference to update the vote count on May 15. (Photo: Varuth Hirunyatheb)

Election Commission (EC) chairman Ittiporn Boonpracong on Saturday said he was confident poll results would be endorsed more quickly than they were in 2019, and well ahead of the mid-July deadline.

Under the law, the EC has 60 days from Election Day, or until July 13, to certify at least 95% of all MPs-elect to make the vote results official. In 2019, it completed this task on May 8, or 45 days after polling day. This year, the 45-day mark would fall on June 28.

The public and businesses have been pressing the EC to endorse the results as soon as possible, as a lengthy period of uncertainty is bad for confidence and the economy. The partners in the prospective coalition led by the Move Forward Party (MFP) also want to speed up the process so that they can get on with forming a government.

Mr Ittiporn said on Saturday that while the results would be endorsed faster than the last time and certainly faster than the 60-day timeline, the commission still had to follow proper procedures.

For a start, he said, it has to check all 95,000 polling stations nationwide to determine where vote recounts or even new polls might have to be held. This information should be available to the EC soon.

After that, the process would not take much more time and it would be clear when the poll results could be officially endorsed, said the EC chairman.

“Everything is expected to be clear next week,” he told reporters. “The EC is fully aware of the necessity of endorsing the poll results that might not be delayed. However, there are procedures that the commission must follow.”

As of Friday, there were about 280 complaints against MPs-elect, he said. Those complaints targeted about 20 winning candidates, he added.

For now, the EC is concentrating on verifying whether those complaints are supported by clear evidence, he said.

iTV shares case

Even if the victory of Move Forward is made official later this month, the party faces another hurdle in the form of a complaint that its leader, Pita Limjaroenrat, held shares in a media company, in violation of election rules.

Mr Ittiporn said facts and evidence about Mr Pita’s holdings in iTV Plc were still being gathered and the EC had not begun formal consideration yet. If it dismisses the complaints, Mr Pita is in the clear. But if the commission is uncertain, it can ask the Constitutional Court for a ruling. Mr Ittiporn declined to say whether it would do so.

All shareholding cases are based on the facts and evidence at hand, said the EC chairman, when asked whether Mr Pita’s case was different from the one against Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, the leader of the Progressive Movement.

Mr Thanathorn held 675,000 shares in V-Luck Media Co Ltd, which published a lifestyle magazine that went out of business. Nevertheless, the Constitutional Court ruled 7-2 in November 2019 that the shareholding disqualified him as an MP. Three months later, the court dissolved the entire Future Forward Party, which Mr Thanathorn had founded and led, over a loan that he had made to it.

The case against Mr Pita involves 42,000 shares in iTV, an independent broadcaster founded in the 1990s. The shares were originally held by his father, who died in 2006. In his role as manager of the estate, Mr Pita tried to sell the shares but could not find a buyer. He said earlier that he had explained the matter to the EC before he was sworn in after the vote in 2019.

iTV stopped broadcasting in 2007 and its licence was taken over by Thai PBS. The company was delisted from the Stock Exchange of Thailand in 2014. However, its business registration remains active because litigation over concession fees owed to the government is not yet concluded. It has had no income from media activities for several years, outside of small sums from a subsidiary that rented equipment to broadcasters but was dissolved in 2002.

Move Forward finished first in last month’s election with 151 seats, 10 more than the Pheu Thai Party. They and six other parties have combined to form a 313-member coalition that is hoping to become the next government.

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