Civil Society Organisations Propose Revamp of Thai Electoral System
The Open Forum for Democracy Foundation (PollWatch), The People Network for Elections in Thailand (P-Net), and the Asian Network for Free Elections (ANFREL) today called for a restructuring of the electoral system in Thailand in an endeavour to more fully realize the democratic rights of Thai voters. After a 3-day seminar of about 40 people from P-Net’s nationwide network of representatives and electoral experts, it was agreed that civil society organisations need to be strengthened so that they are able to freely monitor elections and contribute to a political system that represents the will of the Thai people. The concrete proposals are:
1. Review of electoral system for seats in the House of Representatives
1.1 The simple majority system (First Past the Post – FPTP) should be changed to a new system that can fairly and genuinely reflect the number of votes cast during an election. This will help to form a stable government that respects the voice of the minority, deters vote-buying, and promotes the participation of candidates from all sectors in the society.
1.2 An open list proportional representation system should be used in no more than 5 electoral districts. Voters should be able to list the candidates according to their preference, and choose from different political parties.
1.3 Candidates running in the single member district absolute majority system should not have to be members of a political party.
2. Eligible voters and vote casting
2.1 Voter registration should not be forced by law, and an advanced registration should be allowed. The vote restriction on inmates, priests, priestesses, abbots, ascetics should be lifted. More than one day should be allowed for advance voting.
3. Restructuring of the Electoral Commission
3.1 The commissioners should come from experienced and diversified careers and professions with a fair proportion of men and women.
3.2 The principal role of a commissioner should be to organise an election.
3.3 Civil society organisations should be able to play a genuine role in developing, improving, and monitoring elections.
3.4 The electoral commission should produce and provide media and public relations materials to all candidates and political parties in a fair and equitable manner.
4. Amendment of the laws on political parties
4.1 The prime minister (as the head of government) should be directly elected. The winner should have to gain more than 50 per cent of the votes, and a second round of voting should be held if no candidate meets this threshold in the first round.
4.2 Provisions for the dissolution of political parties when a party member or official is in breach of the law should be removed.
4.3 There should be a clear statement in the law to ensure that political parties nominate a certain number of women candidates for each election. Punishments for violating these rules should be laid out clearly. Representation from the minorities and less privileged people in the House of Representatives should be encouraged.
4.4 Punitive measures for political parties failing to publically disclose income sources and expenses should be written into law and strictly enforced.
5. An act on electoral watch
5.1 There should be an Electoral Watch Act, to enable civil society organisations to freely monitor elections at all levels and check up on political parties without obstruction. The government should allocate sufficient funds for civil society development in proportion to the political development fund.
6. Electoral Court
6.1 An Electoral Court should be established, so that the election commission works more efficiently in resolving cases relating to election fraud. Both the related agencies and voters themselves should be able to file cases.
For all the proposals to be taken seriously, representatives from the civil society organisations will meet and submit the proposals to the Government, the Election Commission, the Law Reform Commission, and related electoral agencies. Their campaign will call upon all sectors of society to help deliver concrete and practical reform to the Thai electoral system.
For more information please contact Mr. Sakool Zuesongdham at 081 8186222 or Ms. Somsri Hananuntasuk at 081 8105306.
Open Forum for Democracy Foundation (PollWatch)
Asian Network for Free Elections (ANFREL)
People Network for Elections in Thailand (P-NET)