On stealing the election XIV

10 05 2019

It is not just PPT saying that the junta has stolen the 2019 election, aided and abetted by the Election Commission and other no-longer-independent agencies. Here the Bangkok Post and The Economist:

The Bangkok Post has an editorial that calls the EC’s party-list allocation a “hijacking”:

Whether it is driven by a political agenda or incompetence, the Election Commission’s (EC) decision on Wednesday to award one party-list MP seat to 11 pro-junta, small parties, whose popular vote total should not have made them eligible for one, seems like a hijacking of the seats which should have gone to other parties.

The EC, whose commissioners are appointed by the military regime’s lawmakers, based its decision on a bizarre and widely criticised calculation formula.

The move, however, has political implications as it could change the face of the new government from an anti-junta alliance to the pro-regime camp. This decision is legally, politically and ethically wrong.

Thailand adopted the new mixed member proportional representation system for the March 24 general election.

Under this system, 350 MPs are elected from so-called “first past the post” voting. They only need to obtain more votes in their constituency than anyone else to win.

Then, another batch of 150 party-list seats is distributed to parties based on the proportion of their popular vote total.

The constitution’s Section 91 and the election law for MPs’ Section 128 clearly outline the way to set a minimum threshold of popular votes that a party should have for a listed candidate to earn a party-list seat.

Based on the popular vote results of the last polls, the threshold should be set at roughly 71,000 votes.

Under this rule, the parties from the anti-junta alliance should have won a small majority in the Lower House if they were granted all the party-list seats they were entitled to. They should be able to claim the right to form a coalition government.

But the EC has discarded such a possibility. It has opted for a different formula by simply granting one party-list seat to each of the 11 small parties even though their nationwide popular vote failed to reach the threshold of 71,000 votes.

Some of them gained even less than half of the threshold. Early reports suggest the parties are likely to align themselves with the pro-regime bloc.

The EC has failed to incorporate proportionality and fairness in the party-list seat distribution.

It has instead taken a risky step which could constitute malfeasance on its part. Many affected parties have lambasted its decision and have vowed to take legal action against it.

The EC’s announcement took place on the same day that the Constitutional Court delivered a verdict which ruled that Section 128 of the election law does not contradict Section 91 of the constitution.

Some interpreted the ruling as giving the EC the green light for its controversial calculation formula. This interpretation is wrong. The ruling does not specify anything about the calculation.

The laws stipulate the threshold for a good reason. That is to prevent party fragmentation and small splinter parties from gaining representation they don’t deserve. It is a universal principle adopted by other countries whose election systems are similar to Thailand’s.

For example, Germany’s election law stipulates that a party either needs to reach a 5% electoral threshold in party-list voting or they must have three constituency members elected if it is to enter parliament.

The EC’s decision may help the pro-junta political camp gain more seats and win the right to form a government, potentially led by its prime ministerial candidate, incumbent Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha. But it has distorted the principle of the law.

And The Economist:

THAIS DO NOT see that much of their king, who spends most of his time in Germany. But for three days starting on May 4th he was on near-constant display for a long and lavish series of ceremonies surrounding his coronation….

The first substantial moments of the new reign came just days later, when the Election Commission released the final results of an election that took place in March. Palang Pracharat, a party created to support the military junta that came to power in a coup in 2014, battled Pheu Thai, which is loyal to Thaskin Shinawatra, a former prime minister who has feuded with the generals since an earlier coup, in 2006. The junta rigged the system in its favour, banning all political activity until a few months before the election, disbanding a second party linked to Mr Thaksin and awarding itself the power to appoint all 250 members of the upper house. Nonetheless, shortly after the vote, a coalition of seven opposition parties, including Pheu Thai and Future Forward, which is popular with young voters, announced they had won a slim majority in the 500-seat lower house.

That is not what the results unveiled this week show. The … biggest blow to the opposition came in the form of tweaks to the formula whereby the commission allocates the 150 seats awarded on a proportional basis. The result was to reduce the tally of the big parties and hand seats to a plethora of tiny ones. This change appeared to breach the commission’s own rules and the election law, but a court found the new maths constitutionally permissible just hours before the party-list results appeared. Entirely coincidentally, the changes reduced the opposition alliance to a minority of 245 seats.

Chaos awaits, as 27 different parties now hold seats in the lower house. A weak, pro-military coalition looks the most likely outcome. The junta will soon present a list of senators to the king for approval. The two houses will then vote in a joint sitting to select a prime minister. The incumbent, Prayuth Chan-ocha, who led the coup in 2014, had seemed determined to stay on. Bangkok is rife with rumours, however, that the king might promote the selection of a less divisive figure, perhaps from the Privy Council, which is packed with soldiers and technocrats. Either way, the notion that the government ushered into power by the election will have any democratic legitimacy—always a doubtful proposition—now looks entirely forlorn.

As if to underline the point, the authorities have set about persecuting Future Forward and its leader, Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, with a gusto typically reserved for supporters of Mr Thaksin.

The Economist then tees off against the king:

The king has alienated his subjects not only by his absence, but also by his personal cruelty and insistence on sycophantic protocol. It was not just the elephants and courtiers who were forced to prostrate themselves: days before the coronation the palace released images of the king getting married for the fourth time, in which his new wife, a former stewardess, grovelled before the unsmiling groom. He has disowned children and locked up relatives of one of her predecessors. Only a small share of Thais bothered to wear yellow, the royal colour, as requested during the coronation ceremonies. Thousands of civil servants had to be bussed in to swell the attendant crowds, which were much sparser than at the cremation of his father, who was far more popular.

Yet King Vajiralongkorn apparently feels secure enough to meddle in political matters. Before the election he intervened, quite hypocritically, to prevent his older sister from getting involved in politics. The courts and the Election Commission followed his instructions slavishly, even though they lacked any clear legal underpinning. Just before polling day he told Thais to vote for “good people”; just after it he stripped Mr Thaksin of several military awards. The risk of royal displeasure seems to have deterred neutral parties from joining the opposition coalition in the lower house. That is no coincidence: a weak coalition would be in no position to stand up to the king. That an election that was supposed to restore Thailand to democracy will instead bolster its preening monarch is a crowning irony.


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