Monday, January 07, 2008

EC and PPP battle over disqualifications

Poll case in Council of State today

EC and PPP battle over disqualifications


The battle between the Election Commission (EC) and the People Power party shifts to the Council of State today, as both sides present their arguments in the case involving three disqualified PPP winning candidates in Buri Ram.

EC secretary-general Suthiphon Thaveechaiyagarn will lead a team of election officials and the deputy police chief of the northeastern province in explaining the decision to red-card all three winning candidates in constituency 1.

The PPP and its three candidates _ Prakit Poldet, Pornchai Srisuriyanyothin and Rungroj Thongsri _ will counter with their own argument.

They will argue the punishment dealt out by the Election Commission's head office in Bangkok was too harsh given that provincial election officials only suggested the results be voided and the candidates be allowed to run in a by-election in constituency 1, and not disqualified.

The three candidates then plan to file a complaint with the National Counter Corruption Commission, accusing Buri Ram election chief Kasem Wattanatham and provincial poll official Pol Col Sangworn Pupaijitkul of abusing their authority, party deputy spokesman Supachai Jaisamut said yesterday.

Election commissioner Sumeth Upanisakorn said the commission was confident it had the evidence to back up the disqualification.

The Buri Ram case was forwarded to the Council of State on Thursday.

Under the process, the EC needs advice from the Council of State on any decision to disqualify winning candidates.

The opinion of the state legal office is not binding, but history shows the commission follows it. In the 2005 general election, the Council of State was against the EC's decision to disqualify two winning candidates, and both subsequently contested the by-election.

The EC's decision led to a mass rally in Buri Ram on Friday amid reports that the lives of election officials there had been threatened.

Somjet Boonthanom, chief of the Council of National Security's (CNS) secretariat, plans a visit to Buri Ram tomorrow.

''The CNS has been informed that election officials in Buri Ram have been threatened and has directed soldiers and police in the area to provide them with proper security,'' he said yesterday.

Gen Somjet has said he suspected the PPP's victory in the polls was the result of vote buying.

His statement upset PPP secretary-general Surapong Suebwonglee, who accused the general of showing disdain for the voters' decision. The win by the PPP demonstrated the confidence people had in the party.

''The CNS should help clear the way for the return of democracy. The country has been bruised for too long,'' he said.

Today the EC has 75 more cases to consider. They have been forwarded by police and its own investigators, and involve candidates who lost as well as candidates who won, said election commissioner Sodsri Satayatham.

So far the EC has certified 397 winners. Among the 83 who have not been approved are 65 winning members of the PPP, including its candidate in Lampang, who was ordered to run again in a by-election set for Sunday.

Lampang election official Niran Khamsemanant has appealed to the EC to delay the poll for a week, to Jan 20, to give officials time to organise and advertise it.

A fresh war of words erupted between the PPP and the rival Democrat party yesterday following People Power leader Samak Sundaravej's remark that ''a dirty hand'' was blocking his party from forming a government.

Democrat chief adviser Chuan Leekpai challenged Mr Samak to make clear what he meant. The only ''dirty hand'' he knew of was the one buying voters and cheating in the election, Mr Chuan said.

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