BANGKOK – Thailand’s Elections Commission (EC) that was hand picked by the Thai Junta, continued to navigate troubled waters yesterday after protests were staged over its performance and the number of people demanding its members’ resignations neared one million.
Former commissioner Sodsri Satayathum called on the agency to clear up all issues immediately before citizens launch an impeachment process, while also warning that the commissioners’ removal from office could postpone endorsement of the final vote results.
University students and other citizens expressed their impatience with the EC’s inability to declare the credible full tally a full week after the election. Discrepancies in numbers provided by the EC have raised suspicions and it has been unable to provide credible explanations to allay public frustration.
The EC has also failed to combat false news and misunderstanding spread over the internet. Every statement it issues on its Facebook page has met only more cynicism.
More than 820,000 people have signed a petition at change.org to impeach the seven commissioners. University students across the country defied school and state officials in setting up tables to gather signatures on petitions with a similar message.
Demonstrators in Bangkok gathered yesterday on the skywalk above the Victory Monument and around the Ratchaprasong intersection to protest the alleged lack of transparency in the election and the performance of the EC.
However, the public disaffection might have no real legal impact, according to rights and legislation watchdog iLaw.
The current Constitution rejects public petitions against independent agencies, iLaw said, adding that the complaints should instead be taken to the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC), which could determine whether there was cause to submit the case to court.
While the public is seething and wants the EC held accountable for its perceived ineffectiveness and lack of transparency, former commissioner Sodsri doubted that impeachment would be a sound option at this stage.
“It is possible for the people to bring the case to the NACC,” Sodsri said. “However, if the NACC takes it up and sends it to the court, the commissioners might have to be suspended from duty.” The investigation could take considerable time before the NACC and the court reach their conclusions, she added. The matter might not invalidate the election altogether, the expert said, but the suspension could interrupt endorsement of the final results and delay other post-election processes.
With growing public pressure on the EC, Sodsri said she was also concerned it might become another political issue. Some parties could demand a fresh election. Others could call for street protests with the aim of justifying another coup.
It would be best if the EC “came clean” about everything, Sodsri said. In constituencies where results are in question, the agency should reopen the ballot boxes and clear all doubts, she suggested.
Sodsri warned that impeachment of the commissioners would stall post-election activities and the junta would continue to hold the reins of power.
By Kas Chanwanpen