Senator candidates wait for the election to begin at the Thai-Japan Bangkok Youth Center on Saturday morning. (Photo by Chant Katanyu)
Almost 2,800 people have been chosen as senator candidates at the provincial level nationwide, to be whittled down to 200 in the final round of cross-elections at the national level.
However, the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) will have a final say in the process and many of them might not get the seats in the Upper House in a complicated selection process.
The 2,778 successful candidates at the provincial level on Saturday would proceed to the national level on Thursday.
Of the total, 2,323 people are independent runners and 455 are sent by their professional organisations, said Jarungwit Poomma, secretary-general of the Election Commission (EC).
For Bangkok, 74 were picked as Bangkok senator candidates through cross-elections among 10 professional groups. A total of 203 candidates had been qualified to enter the race on behalf of Bangkok — 60 are recommended by their professional organisations and 143 are independent runners.
But after the registration ended at 9am on Saturday, four failed to show up, leaving the total number of contestants at 199. Candidates from five of the 10 professional groups did not have to compete at all because the number is short of the required four for each group.
Silpasuai Raweesaengsoon, deputy of Bangkok Metropolitan Administration, said there were three bad ballots because Thai numbers were used on some of the ballots instead of the required Arabic numbers.
As the race is entering the final phase, the senator election, a first under the new cross-election method introduced in the 2017 constitution, has failed to draw participation and public interest. Critics say the reasons are that people do not feel they have a say in it and the ban of publicity by the Election Commission, which prohibits the revelation of names and photos of the candidates.
All 250 senators come from three sources and 50 will come from the cross-elections among professional groups administered by the EC this month.
The EC is holding the cross-elections at district, provincial and national levels for 200 candidates to be shortlisted to 50 in a process costing 1.3 billion baht. The candidates may apply independently or be recommended by their professional organisations.
When the applications ended early this month, 7,210 people applied nationwide. Of the total, 6,705 people run as independent candidates and 505 as representatives of their organisations.
The total number of candidates is a mere 7.2% of the EC’s target of 100,000.
Three problems further reduced the candidate numbers as the selection proceeds: some wrote Thai numbers when the regulation requires that they use Arabic ones; some caused bad ballots and some failed to report themselves in time.
Besides, the very low candidate numbers in some districts defeat the purpose of the process, resulting in no competition in several districts. For instance, there were no candidates in two Bangkok’s districts — Pomprap Sattruphai and Sathorn. Only three districts — Bang Plat, Bung Kum and Prawate — had enough numbers of candidates to justify the cross-elections. Candidates for the remaining districts sailed through unchallenged to the provincial levels.
At the district levels, of all 928 districts nationwide, cross-elections happened in only 197. Fifty-two districts had no candidates. Runners in the remaining 679 districts saw no competition because there were fewer than the required three candidates each — they go straight to the provincial level.
After the cross-elections finished, the EC will submit the 200 candidates to be shortlisted to 50 by the NCPO.
Another 196 senators will be directly picked by the NCPO and many of them are expected to come from existing members of the National Legislative Assembly. The remaining four will be by positions. (see chart)
All 250 senators will play a crucial role in choosing Thailand’s 30th prime minister as constitutionally, in the first five years after Parliament convenes, they will join the 500-member lower house in voting on Thailand’s next leader.
The provincial selection took place on Saturday after the district level completed on Dec 16. The final round at the national level will take place on Dec 27.