Thailand confirms new senators in first race after 2014 coup


(Bloomberg) — Thailand’s election commission has certified the results of the first Senate elections since a 2014 coup, clearing the way for new lawmakers to replace the previous military-appointed upper house of parliament after a complicated selection process last month.

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The 200 winners of the Senate race will have to collect certificates from the Electoral Commission office this week before formally entering parliament, Sawaeng Boonmee, secretary-general of the polling agency, said in a briefing on Wednesday. The official winners’ list will be submitted for publication in the Royal Gazette later in the day, he said.

The Senate plays a crucial role in Thai politics and has served to protect the interests of the pro-military royalist establishment for the past decade. Although it no longer has a say in who becomes prime minister, the new Senate retains the power to amend the military-backed charter and to make appointments to positions on the Constitutional Court, the anti-corruption agency and the election commission.

The confirmation from Senate lawmakers came two weeks after the contest ended, with a former army commander and former provincial governors on the preliminary list of winners. The process was delayed because the electoral commission received more than 800 complaints about candidate qualifications and irregularities during the three rounds of voting between June 9 and 26. More than 46,000 people participated in the race.

Under the new system, the public had no role in choosing senators. Qualified candidates voted among themselves in 20 predetermined categories, ranging from farmers to lawyers, women and ethnic minorities. This was conducted at the local, state and national levels, and the top ten candidates from each group would become members of the Senate.

The incoming class of senators will serve a five-year term. New members must report to parliament by Monday, and the inaugural session of the upper house will be scheduled shortly thereafter, the Senate Secretariat said.

The sitting Senate played a key role in Thai politics last year, blocking the prime ministerial candidate of the winning Reform Party from seizing power for his campaign to amend a royal insult law, having already won enough support in the 500-member House of Representatives.

The new Senate will be watched to see how it handles any proposed changes to the constitution, which would require support from at least a third of the upper house. Almost all attempts to amend the charter in recent years have failed due to insufficient votes in the Senate, despite the proposals being approved by the lower house of parliament.

(Updated with details and context on an ongoing basis.)

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