BANGKOK — Election regulators said Wednesday they are considering legal action against a progressive party on suspicion of being “influenced” by outside individuals.
The threat came as Future Forward Party remains embroiled in legal cases against it and its executives. Now the Election Commission said it could be disbanded because a member of a dissolved party has been campaigning on its behalf, asking her supporters to “shift votes” to its candidate.
“We will look into details whether this is the case of a party asking another party to shift their votes to it and whether that’s against the law,” agency chairman Itthiporn Boonprakong said at a news conference. “As for whether the punishment will be as high as disbandment, we cannot answer at this point.”
The investigation was launched after one of the candidates disqualified when her party Thai Raksa Chart was dissolved last week told her supporters to vote for Future Forward following her political demise.
The politician, Thitima Chaisang, also took to the streets in Chachoengsao province and joined the Future Forward’s candidate in his campaign. She said the party coincides with her principles of democracy and equality.
“Thitima Chaisang would like to beg you to shift your votes to the pro-democracy side: Future Forward Party,” reads one of the banners she commissioned.
Her party was disbanded by a court which found it guilty of drawing the monarchy into politics by nominating a sister of His Majesty the King to run for prime minister.
By allowing Thitima to campaign on its behalf, Election Commissioner Itthiporn said Future Forward could violate an election law that bans parties from being subject to “outside influence.” He added that the commission started its own inquiry without anyone filing a complaint.
“This issue came to the attention of the EC, and it was reported in the news. Therefore, the EC can investigate it without the need of a complaint,” Itthiporn said.
Chaturon Chaisang, a former advisor to Thai Raksa Chart and brother of Thitima, said that rationale made little sense.
“I don’t know what they mean by ‘vote shifting’ and how that could violate election laws,” Chaturon wrote online.
He asked whether the pro-junta Phalang Pracharat Party would be dissolved if former Thai Raksa Chart members suddenly asked their supporters to vote for that party.
Future Forward has been targeted by the junta and its supporters for numerous alleged infractions. Its leader, Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, was charged with spreading false information after accusing the junta of seeking ways to hold on to its power after the election.
A party deputy leader was also charged after sharing a hoax story about the government before deleting it minutes later. Just last week, a junta rep filed charge against the party for incorrectly describing Thanathorn as a former chairman of the Federation of Thai Industries in an online biography.