Pheu Thai wades into primary voting row

Wants joint panel to revise contentious bill

Chusak Sirinil, legal adviser to the Pheu Thai Party, says proposed changes to the law on primary elections are unacceptable. (Screen capture YouTube/insidethaigovhd)

The Pheu Thai Party yesterday lodged a petition with the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) and the Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) calling for a review of the controversial political party law.

In the petition, the party urged the NLA, the CDC and other concerned parties to set up a joint panel to revise the bill which has already been passed by the NLA.

Pheu Thai criticised at the version approved by the NLA which calls for a primary vote system, saying it is likely to cause problems when the law is enforced.

Supporting the version proposed by the CDC, Pheu Thai said the original version is deemed suitable and not likely to pose any obstacles to a general election.

The CDC wrote generally in the charter that people must be allowed a role in deciding a party's MP candidates while the NLA's scrutiny committee later settled on the primary vote as the way to address charter-stipulated people's participation.

Under the bill, party members, representatives and branches of political parties would be required to select their MP general election candidates via a vote.

According to Pheu Thai, a primary vote is a time-consuming process that will prove costly to political parties. This may cause delays in selecting candidates and make political parties unable to field as many candidates.

Chusak Sirinil, chairman of Pheu Thai's legal team, said political parties usually ask its members and voters for opinions when selecting potential candidates.

A committee is also set up to vet candidates, so the selection process is carried out in a fashion that reflects the CDC's intention, he said.

"[In the case of a primary vote], if a complaint is lodged to oppose the selection process, a party may lose the chance of standing in the polls. There are also other concerns about the branches that need to be addressed," he said.

The move follows a petition by 19 small parties which are asking the CDC to review the proposed primary voting system.

The group is concerned that the primaries would put small parties at a disadvantage due to limited resources and manpower to establish party branches and bring in members.

Somchai Srisutthiyakorn, a member of the Election Commission (EC), yesterday said it is studying the version of the political party bill adopted by the NLA and so far had found no elements that may flout the charter.

The EC has 10 days to study the bill and is expected to send any objections to the NLA by July 5.

The EC member yesterday criticised the CDC for saying EC representatives had failed to answer questions on the political party bill, especially the primary vote.

The EC and the CDC have different views on primary voting.

The EC insisted it is ready to go ahead with primaries, while the CDC is concerned they would create problems for parties in selecting MP candidates.

"The EC officials could answer the questions, but their answers may not please the CDC," Mr Somchai said.

Mr Somchai added the EC has forwarded its objections about the EC bill to the NLA and a joint committee is expected to be set up on Friday to iron out differences.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, meanwhile, yesterday refused to get involved in the dispute over primaries, saying his job is to make sure elections take place in line with the roadmap.

Activist Srisuwan Janya yesterday asked the Constitutional Court to rule on a clause in the political party bill allowing foreigners granted Thai citizenship for at least five years to join a political party.

He said the petition is based on concerns for national security.

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