BANGKOK — A member of the junta’s interim parliament who challenged the recent selection of election inspectors now says he’s willing to drop the matter.
Instead of campaigning further for a say in who will monitor voting in the field, Kittisak Rattanawaha said he’d let current and future election commissioners settle the issue themselves. The spat, which broke out last week, led to fears that the upcoming poll could be postponed yet again if lawmakers insisted on invalidating all inspectors picked by the election commission.
“If the result turns out that they all agree on it, the NLA shouldn’t move ahead with it,” Kittisak said Sunday, referring to the junta-appointed National Legislative Assembly.
Kittisak could not be reached for comment Monday. Deputy Democrat Party chief Jurin Laksanavisit told reporters he believed Kittisak’s remark signals a retreat from the NLA.
“I think it’s a good thing,” Jurin said. “Apart from ending a conflict between the NLA and [Election Commission], which is an independent agency, it would also end society’s concern over interference from the legislative branch.”
The conflict surfaced last week when 36 legislators announced they would seek to dismiss all 161 provincial election inspectors named by the Election Commission. The lawmakers argued the interim parliament should have the right to pick those inspectors through a special committee.
But politicians from both Pheu Thai and Democrat parties slammed the proposal as a potential way for the junta to interfere with the selection process via its rubber-stamp parliament.
Former Pheu Thai MP Ruangkrai Leekijwattana went as far as calling on the Election Commission to take the matter to the Constitutional Court to protect the integrity of the upcoming poll, set to take place in February 2019.
An online survey launched by the 36 lawmakers drew numerous opponents. Out of the 170,000 users who voted, up to 100,000, or about 90 percent, said they disagree with the proposed reset.
Operating under the newly enacted election law, poll inspectors will serve as eyes and ears of the commission in Bangkok. They are required to report any irregularities.
Top election chief Supachai Somcharoen on Monday defended his selection of the 616 inspectors on the grounds the commission has to lay down the groundwork for the next election so voting can take place on time.
“The Election Commission is required by law to appoint the inspectors. If I didn’t do it, I would be held accountable under the law,” Supachai said in an interview.
Supachai also dismissed criticism that his set of election commissioners, who are due to be replaced by new candidates selected under the interim parliament, put their loyalists into the crucial jobs. The next commissioners has the power to simply replace the inspectors with their own choices at any time, he said.
The commission chairman also rejected a call from Ruangkrai to take the challenging lawmakers to the court, saying it’s premature.
“We won’t do it … they haven’t filed any formal motion. This is just their proposal,” Supachai said.