Constitutional Court to rule Friday on validity of Feb 2 election


BANGKOK, March 19 – The Constitutional Court announced it will give its verdict Friday on whether the Feb 2 general election will be annulled.

Three related parties – the caretaker government, Election Commission (EC) and Office of the Ombudsman – testified today before the Constitutional Court which assigned Judge Charan Phakdithanakul to hear their testimonies.

The government was allowed to submit additional documents to the court by tomorrow.

Ombudsman Pornpetch Vichitcholachai insisted that the Office of the Ombudsman was entitled by Section 245 (1) of the Constitution to petition the court, seeking a verification of the government-issued royal decree on the general election.

The Ombudsman said the Feb 2 nationwide poll should be nullified since the EC held the election in only 347 constituencies with 28 constituencies where balloting was not carried out.

There is no guarantee that voting in 28 pending constituencies will be held in 180 days as stipulated by the charter given the ongoing political unrest, said Mr Pornpetch.

He said the Constitutional Court had advised the caretaker government to discuss with the EC to resolve problems arising from the disruption of the election but nothing was done.

The government’s use of the emergency decree has been unfair to other political parties contesting the election, he said.

Mr Pornpetch claimed that the nationwide poll, if carried out, would negatively impact Thailand’s gross domestic product in light of ongoing conflicts and budget spending.

In addition, he said that the Feb 2 election created a rift in the country.

Caretaker Deputy Prime Minister Phongthep Thepkanjana said the Ombudsman was not authorised to seek the charter court’s verification on the validity of the Feb 2 poll because the royal decree on election, announced by the government, did not contradict the Constitution.

Since balloting was disrupted in several constituencies on Feb 2, the EC was entitled to hold a new election in pending constituencies and such an action was in accord with the law, he said.

He ruled out the Ombudsman’s allegation that the emergency decree created disadvantages to some candidates and there have not been any complaints from any candidate so far.

He insisted that balloting in pending constituencies should be held, otherwise the caretaker government must be in office until the third quarter.

If that is the case, the country’s GDP in the third quarter will be affected, he said.

He complained that the caretaker government was given too little time to prepare its explanations in court. Mr Charan, the judge, allowed the government only until tomorrow to supply additional documents.

Mr Phongthep admitted to the court that a new election would not resolve the ongoing political conflicts but he nonetheless said it was a democratic process.

A judge asked if the caretaker government should be held responsible for failing to take action against those who disrupted the election, Mr Phongthep said the government had done its best and the people who obstructed the election must take the responsibility.

EC chairman Supachai Somcharoen said the Ombudsman was not empowered to seek the Constitutional Court’s ruling to annul the election since the EC has organised the election under the 2013 royal decree, not the Constitution.

The EC has not acted against the Constitution, he said.