Un-updated: On the junta’s “election” II

17 09 2018

It seems no one trusts the military junta all that much. The Nation reports on a comment by law professor Ekachai Chainuvati who observes that the junta’s so-called green-light order on political activities “also empowers Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha to propose changes if he deems any activity objectionable…”.

In other words, this is the junta’s way of controlling things. So the green light is no green light at all. We hazard a guess that it is also a way to entrap the politicians the junta deems threatening, popular or just doesn’t like. The Dictator can declare them in breach of the law.

As the professor says: “This means there’s no certainty. If they want to amend the order, they can,” he said. “There’s nothing certain about this. They can change everything again over the next three months.

Pro-democracy activist Nuttaa Mahattana makes a good point: “Keeping the peace is only an excuse – we should ask what the real reason behind the ban is…. The way I see it, political activity is a form of communication, and when that communication is banned, we have to ask what the NCPO is afraid people will find out about.”

Nuttaa called a spade a spade: “such limitations on freedom … serve … only the political ambition of individual junta figures. Until now, she pointed out, they’ve been the only ones with the power to communicate and campaign for support.”

Meanwhile, the Election Commission, which ages ago reckoned its provincial offices were almost done on redrawing the constituency boundaries, now seems to have decided that they might start work on that. We guess the junta will be watching that closely and will have lots of “advice”-cum-orders.

Update: It seems the EC has proven good on its original word and the boundaries were done. That’s one obstacle out of the way. We have seen no commentary yet on whether the boundaries have been well drawn. Nope, just about to redraw them.

Irony of dictatorship

15 09 2018

It is ironic and, indeed, defining of the nature of Thailand’s dictatorship that in order to prepare for the junta’s rigged election, that “preparations” – well some of them – require the use of The Dictator’s Article 44 to decree that political parties have “the green light to hold some [some] necessary pre-election activities…”.

Of course, campaigning remains forbidden.

By The Dictator’s decree, parties are “permited by to organise activities, including general assemblies, on condition that they inform the Election Commission (EC) at least five days in advance.” They are also given The Dictator’s permission to “use electronic media to communicate with their members but they are not permitted to use digital platforms for actual campaigning.”

If recent events in other countries are any guide, platforms such as Facebook could play a huge role in the run-up to voting day.

As we know, the ban on campaigning only applies to parties not affiliated with the junta.

Deepening the irony of the claims that Thailand is “returning to democracy,” the decree was required to even allow the Election Commission to call a meeting with political parties.

Goldilocks and the junta’s “election”

8 09 2018

As some parties express reservations about 60 days of “election” campaigning, junta lackey Wissanu Krea-ngam got testy.

It needs to be recalled that the 60 days has to also include a lot of party and policy development, not least because parties are “required to submit their policy plans to the Election Commission for approval before they could start campaigning.” With no political meetings allowed by the junta, as a Future Forward Party spokesman observed, “the limited time for policy discussions would also impact voters, not just the parties.”He made the good point that “if voters were to also participate in electoral politics, including reflecting on different parties’ policies and understanding them, they would definitely need more than 60 days…”.

Of course, the junta is counting on the parties that support it to be modeled on the parties of yore, when vote buying ruled and policies were non-existent.

The EC doesn’t even have guidelines on how it will vet party policies. We guess the junta will tell them which policies and which parties will pass muster. (The EC also doesn’t have boundaries decided and doesn;t have its election monitors/supervisors selected.)

Wissanu’s response was that “during the government of former prime minister M.R. Kukrit Pramoj when parties were given only 20 days for electioneering.” Perhaps he might have added that Kukrit’s government was chaotic and only his Social Action Party only won 18 seats and was an unstable coalition government; you might say, exactly what the junta wants.

Wissanu “warned politicians that the election might be postponed from next February to May if they think that the 70-day [or 60 day] period permissible for election campaigning is not enough.” But, then again, he declared “for the time being, nothing has been fixed yet,” and got all Goldilocks by saying “the period for election campaigning should not be too short or too long…”. Presumably he means the period should be “just right” (for the junta).

Updated: A rigged election awaits

6 09 2018

It looks increasingly like that the military junta has decided on its rigged election in the first half of 2019. Things may change, but one indicator is the ditching of local elections.

These had previously been mentioned as needing to be held before the junta’s national election. Back in June, the junta was reportedly preparing to hold local elections as a way to “test the waters” ahead of its “election,” then being touted for February 2019. Now it is reported that honorary unofficial junta spokesman Meechai Ruchupan, touted as head of the Constitutional Drafting Committee, says the Election Commission simply lacks “sufficient time to make preparations” for local elections.

Now we thought that the constitution was well beyond drafting stage, so wonder what Meechai is doing but guess it is watching the drafting of bills resulting from the charter. Even so, we didn’t know he was also directing the EC. But as an Interfering Old Man, he always feels entitled to tells lesser persons what to do.

Meechai revealed that the six draft bills governing local elections haven’t been “scrutinised by the National Legislative Assembly (NLA)…”. He added that “it remains unknown at this stage if the election of district councillors will continue…”. In other words, there may be a period where local government has no councilors at all. We assume this means Article 44 will have to be used by The Dictator to enable local government to continue in the interim period.

That his junta twin Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam agrees with Meechai confirms that local elections are off for this year.

Another sign of a forthcoming “election” is the promulgation of even more policies to keep voters onside with the junta.

Update: We note that at The Nation, Wissanu is quoted as saying: “If the general election is held in February 2019, local elections will take place around May 2019…”. At the same time, he is also saying that the junta has agreed that political parties (who are not in the junta’s pocket and already at work) will be able to “campaign” for 60 days and he gives a December lifting of the ban. Again, this points to late February, perhaps, maybe.

“Election,” political “ban” and “policy corruption”

21 08 2018

So many inverted commas!! But that’s what the world of the junta’s politics demands. Nothing is exactly what it seems.

In yet another careful rollback of expectations and the original statement, the Bangkok Post reports junta legal minion Wissanu Krea-ngam as saying the junta’s “election” will probably be “scheduled sometime between Feb 24 and May 5…”. Wissanu hinted that 24 February was a possible date, but that depends on a lot of others doing the necessary vetting, signing and so on. Unlikely, we think.

And, he says, the ban on political activities (for all but the junta’s buddies and the junta itself) will be “partially lifted, most probably beginning from next month…”.

Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu made these claims after “meeting the Election Commission” where “he and the five newly appointed election commissioners discussed almost a dozen poll-related issues.”

Is it just us thinking that this a clear statement of the lack of the EC’s independence? Add to this the evidence that Wissanu, representing the junta, and the commissioners agreed that the ban on political activities “would be eased selectively.” That would seem to suit only the junta and its faux parties. In other jurisdictions that might rightly be seen as collusion on election rigging.

Even Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva knows that “the constitution explicitly states that the EC is the final authority in fixing an election date. However, since the regime has Section 44 at its disposal, the EC’s power could be irrelevant.” There you are.

Meanwhile, down south, the junta has been dragging around buckets of loot for “policy corruption”/vote-buying and so on. Another report in the Bangkok Post tells readers that Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha “has promised to inject more cash into development schemes…”.

The Dic confirmed that loads of money would be pumped into the south for roads, rail, tourism development and just about anything else business people could think of.

Further updated: Selection, “election”

20 08 2018

We were amused to see that the new Elections Commissioners, who were only approved for work on four days ago, seem to be miracle workers. If they aren’t miracle men, then they’ve been toiling away as unappointed commissioners. But let’s leave that legal issue because no one seems to care.

The big miracle is the announcement of a road map that has a “general election will likely be held on Feb 24 next year…”. Yahoo! Saddle up for an election campaign! But, then, we got confused.

Whose road map? Turns out the EC means the junta’s road map, which has been altered time and again.

Of course, we know that only The Dictator can set the election date for his election. We know this because he’s said it several times.

And then there’s the reporting that the “general election” – not to be confused with “electing generals” – will be on that date because the Senate election will take place on a particular schedule.

Hmm. Schedules? Like the election scheduled for 2015? But what is this Senate election? Section 107 of the junta’s constitution states:

The Senate consists of two hundred members installed from a selection by and among persons having the knowledge, expertise, experience, profession, or characteristics or common interests or working or having worked in varied areas of the society.

That’s how we became confused. It is selection-cum-election by unrepresentative colleges. We guess that is just election without the s. As the report explains it:

Under the constitution, the 250 senators will come from two sources. The EC will hold an election for professional groups to select 200 candidates among themselves and the NCPO would shortlist them to 50.

Looks like no one, least of all the election commissioners, is very clear about much at all.

So its back to the military junta to “explain.” A junta spokesperson, Maj Gen Piyapong Klinpan declared: “We can’t say anything else but that the election will be held in early 2019 according to the road map. There is no reason to postpone it…”.

That seems like as clear a statement of junta intent that we have heard for some time. What will The Dictator say? Is he sure he can have his people “win”?

Has PPT lost the money it put on a May “election”?

Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha is continuing his selection campaigning in the south this week. We can’t wait for his comments on a 24 February “election.”

Update 1: We note that The Nation reports the head of the Election Commission has a different take on election dates, one that seems to us to be more accurate than other reports we have seen to date:

Elections will be held on February 24 at the earliest and by May 5 at the latest, Election Commission (EC) chairman Ittiporn Boonprakong said on Sunday.

The tentative dates were set as per the government’s road map, and after discussions were held with political parties and concerned agencies in June this year, Ittiporn clarified.

“We are ready to hold an election, no matter whether [it is held] sooner or later,” the new EC chairman said.

Looks like out money might well be safe.

Update 2: Khaosod quotes EC Secretary-General Charungwit Phumma as stating: “The time frame is set by the laws. No matter what, we have to organize it…. We have to stick to the laws.” By this he means the junta’s “election” must be held between 24 February and 5 May 2019. We still want to hear it from The Dictator, who still has Article 44 in his pocket along with the Army commander.

Election commissioners made “legal” II

19 08 2018

Remember all that kerfuffle over the past week or so about election inspectors? First the National Legislative Assembly was going to change a law to allow the new, then unconfirmed Election Commission members – well, some of them – to select election inspectors. NLA people, initially supported by The Dictator, said this was necessary because the old commissioners had done the selecting and the junta no longer trusted them. They might have made appointments that didn’t suit the junta. Then “pressure” came from somewhere and it was decided not to do anything because changing law might encourage naughty politicians to do the same in years to come, if the junta ever decides to have an election.

At the same time, the new commissioners, not yet officially appointed, were making decisions about who should lead them, seemingly in ways that was unconstitutional.

All very messy and complicated.

But now those 5 of 7 commissioners have been officially appointed, what’s their first job?

Thai PBS reports that the “five new members of the Election Commission officially assumed their duty today [Friday] and the first major task awaiting them is how to deal with the fate of the 616 election inspectors appointed by their predecessors.” It reports that they immediately had a meeting to discuss the 616 inspectors and that it’s expected “the new election commissioners will go through the list and strike out those who they believe are not qualified.”

By “not qualified” we assume that this designates inspectors who can’t be trusted to do the junta’s bidding when an election is held, sometime in the future.

So there was no need to change the law in the NLA because the new, junta-approved Election Commissioners can do the junta’s bidding on this anyway.