Many in the dark about Senate poll
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Many in the dark about Senate poll

Survey finds very low public awareness about how new Upper House will be chosen

People apply for the Senate election at the registration office in Muang district of Khon Kaen on Friday, the last day for applications. (Photo: Chakkrapan Natanri)
People apply for the Senate election at the registration office in Muang district of Khon Kaen on Friday, the last day for applications. (Photo: Chakkrapan Natanri)

Almost one-quarter of Thai people are unaware of the coming Senate election, and more than 70% misunderstand how the new chamber will be elected, a survey has found.

The survey was carried out by King Prajadhipok’s Institute between May 7 and 18, among 1,620 people aged 18 and over. It found that 23.5% of the respondents said they did not know the Senate election was approaching.

When asked about the election method, only 28.3% knew the new senators would be elected among themselves, while 34.7% had no idea how they would be elected.

The survey found that just 21.5% of respondents knew the new senators would be selected from professional groups, while 15.5% thought they would be directly elected by eligible voters.

The findings may come as a surprise to Election  Commission (EC) chief Sawang Boonmee, who has expressed the view that public was well informed about the Senate election process.

The new Senate will comprise 200 members drawn from 20 professional groups. Only registered candidates will be allowed to vote, with elections taking place in three stages at the district, provincial and national levels.

The application period for candidates closed on Friday, and the EC is expected to announce the total number soon. As of May 23, the number of applicants stood at 34,169 — far short of the 100,000 the poll body had hoped would sign up.

The EC on Friday reiterated its advice to the candidates to study the regulations to avoid breaking the law.

Those who allow other candidates, executives of political parties, MPs or political office holders to assist in their campaigns could face a one-year jail term, a fine of up to 20,000 baht and a ban from elections for five years.

Many candidates have complained that some of the rules are confusing and overly restrictive, and on Friday the Administrative Court agreed.

The court ruled in favour of prospective candidates, revoking three EC regulations governing how candidates for the Senate election can introduce themselves.

In their petition, the prospective candidates said the regulations breached their freedom of expression.

In its order, the court revoked Regulations 7, 8 and 11(2).

Regulation 7 allows candidates to introduce themselves using no more than two sheets of A4 paper to sum up their resumes.

Rule No.8 allows them to introduce themselves via an electronic method, but online introductions are restricted to the information contained within the two A4 pages. Self-introduction via TV, radio and print media is prohibited.

Rule No.11 (2) prohibits candidates and their registered assistants who work in the media and entertainment industries to use their professions to aid their self-introduction campaigns.

Candidates from other professional groups, it was pointed out, can also use their careers to benefit their Senate election campaigns.

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