Campaigners use Songkran to urge people to run for Senate
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Campaigners use Songkran to urge people to run for Senate

More ordinary citizens competing could make it harder for influential figures to triumph

Nutchapakorn Nammueng of iLaw uses a pedestrian bridge in the Rangsit area of Pathum Thani as a base to give out pamphlets promoting the Senate election. (Photo: @NutchapakornTha X account)
Nutchapakorn Nammueng of iLaw uses a pedestrian bridge in the Rangsit area of Pathum Thani as a base to give out pamphlets promoting the Senate election. (Photo: @NutchapakornTha X account)

Political activists are using the Songkran holiday to urge returnees to convince family and friends in their home provinces to seek seats in the Senate, in hopes of making it harder for influential figures to parade into Parliament.

As people are using the long break to greet their loved ones at home, campaigners see a good opportunity to raise awareness about the election for the upper house — especially about the chances for them to be contestants.

A number of volunteers and activists went out to places where holidaymakers started their journeys upcountry, such as bus stations and the Rangsit area in Pathum Thani.

Nutchapakorn Nammueng of Internet Law Reform Dialogue (iLaw), who has been distributing pamphlets explaining the Senate poll in Rangsit and at the Mor Chit 2 bus terminal since Friday, said on Tuesday he was somewhat satisfied with the response.

“The reception I received from passers-by was okay,” he said.

Most of the people Mr Nutchapakorn and his colleagues talked to, especially the young ones, had heard about the Senate election, he said, he added.

The campaign to urge ordinary people to run for the upper house started at the beginning of this month, and 945 people have shown intention to do so thus far.

The campaigners are not satisfied with the number and hope that more contenders will step forward.

“We don’t think the number is that high,” said Pongsak, a WeWatch volunteer, who declined to give his last name. (Story continues below)

Two campaigners join Nutchapakorn Nammueng of iLaw in Rangsit, Pathum Thani. (Photo: @NutchapakornTha X account)

iLaw and WeWatch are among almost two dozen organisations joining hands for the campaign to encourage more people to run for Senate seats.

They do not want to see a repeat of past polls in which mostly influential figures were elected. The Senate in the era of direct elections was ridiculed by the media and public as a family-business assembly as MPs fielded their wives or close relatives and they got elected.

The present upper house comprising 250 senators was picked entirely by the military regime. Its term will officially end on May 11 but members will remain until their successors are chosen. The new election is expected to start on June 22 at the district level and the national vote could take place by early July. Registrations are expected to take place in late May or early June.

The new Senate will have only 200 members elected from what could be the most complicated election system in the world. The Election Commission (EC) designed it in the hope that the complicated formula would at least make vote-buying and bloc voting more difficult.

The election consists of three tiers: district, provincial and national. At the district level, 55,680 individuals will be elected, consisting of the top three applicants in each of 20 professional and civil society groups across 928 districts.

From this pool, 3,080 individuals will be elected from the top two finishers at each provincial level, covering 77 provinces.

Finally, the 200 senators will be elected from the top 10 candidates in each group at the national level.

Although the voting system was created for fairness in the eyes of the EC, campaigners have said it still favours people who are either rich or are affiliated with political parties. Ordinary people could be discouraged from running as taking part in all three stages would be time-consuming, and the 2,500-baht registration fee seems to be high for people living upcountry, they said.

As well, young people will not be represented as candidates must be eligible voters aged 40 years old or more.

But Mr Nutchapakorn of iLaw said young voters still have a role to play by convincing people at home or in their neighbourhoods to contest. He said more candidates from the ranks of ordinary people could stand in the way of influential figures, who have more money and clout, being selected as senators.

“Independent voting could reduce the chance for vote collusion,” the iLaw activist said.

“We hope their sacrifice to run in the Senate election would help fulfil the true principle of an election. That is democracy,” he added.

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