Thai Election Commission certifies newly elected senators despite ongoing complaints


BANGKOK (AP) — Thailand’s election commission officially certified the 200 candidates on Wednesday newly elected senators which will replace the 250 military-appointed members who have served in the Senate since 2019, even as official complaints about the process are still pending.

The new Senate, whose first session has yet to take place, will lose one of its most important powers: the right to vote together with the House of Representatives on the appointment of a prime minister.

That aspect was dramatically demonstrated last year when the senators, predominantly conservative, blocked the progressive Move Forward partywho won the most seats in the general election, could form a new government.

The process of electing a new Senate, whose term expired in May, became controversial because the rules for the election were not officially issued until this year, with complaints that they were complicated and required little public input.

Candidates nominated themselves by paying a modest entry fee and registering to compete in one of 20 categories, sorted by profession or social position, such as women, the elderly and the disabled. They then proceeded to three rounds of voting.

The election commission was originally scheduled to certify the results on July 3, but delayed the certifications several times after receiving numerous complaints alleging that candidates had misrepresented their qualifications. The final round of voting was on June 26.

The new Senate still appears to be a conservative body, but less conservative than the previous one, which was dominated by the military.

Critics said the voting process lacked transparency, leaving it open to abuses such as vote buying. Questions were also raised about whether the electoral commission had properly checked the qualifications of candidates.

Electoral Commission Secretary-General Sawang Boonmee said his office needed more time to investigate more than 800 complaints. He said the commission voted to certify the results because “we cannot say at this point that the vote was not free and fair.”

The Senate, unlike the House of Representatives, is not a legislative body. However, Senate approval is required for legislation to become law.

The party also has the power to select members of essentially independent regulatory bodies, such as the Electoral Commission and the National Anti-Corruption Commission, for royal appointments. Their work is widely seen as an obstacle to political reform, and advocates have sometimes been punished with legal sanctions, including imprisonment.

The Senate’s votes are also needed to amend the Constitution. Pheu Thai Partywho came to power last year is pushing for a new charter to replace the 2017 charter, in order to make possible a number of reforms promised during the campaign.

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