BANGKOK — The Election Commission is slated to vote tomorrow on a proposal to remove the names and party emblems of candidates from ballots in the upcoming election.
Election commissioner Krit Urwongse said the issue will be discussed at an urgent meeting called by the agency Tuesday in the wake of widespread criticism from political parties and pro-democracy activists who accuse the military government of foul play.
The agency will announce its decision next week, Krit said.
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His colleague Nath Laoseesawakool told reporters that stripping any reference to candidates and their parties on the ballots would make it easier for officials to print the papers and send them to overseas voters.
Pro-democracy campaigner Nuttaa Mahattana accused the Election Commission, supposedly an independent agency, of following the junta’s bidding.
She said she will stage a protest at the commission’s headquarters tomorrow to voice her disagreement with the plan.
The proposal was first made public last week by chief election commissioner Jarungvith Phumma, who gave a similar rationale. Jarungvith said nameless ballots that bear only the numbers of candidates are easier to produce and transport.
But the explanation failed to satisfy politicians and critics of the junta. There has never been a prior issue printing ballots for overseas voters that, like those used domestically, feature the names, logos and names of the candidates’ parties.
The move is the latest in a series of government policies that critics say are meant to diminish the power of traditional civilian parties and disenfranchise voters.
Pheu Thai Party spokesman Anusorn Iamsa-ard said the plan, if implemented, would place a new burden on voters to remember the names and parties they want to vote for, while Panthongtae Shinawatra, son of influential former PM Thaksin Shinawatra, said older voters might mark the wrong box altogether.
Democrat MP Wirat Kanyasiri called the idea “ridiculous.” Democrat deputy leader Nipit Intarasombat also mocked the Election Commission for “trying to rationalize an irrational” proposal.
A government spokesman has denied accusations the regime is meddling in the election, now scheduled to take place in late February. Puttipong Punnakan said the government is not involved in the proposal, which he said was entirely the work of election officials.
A fanpage of Manchester United football team posted a spoof scoreboard result, which removes the names and logos of all clubs, to hide the fact that its rival Liverpool is currently the leading team.