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After the first round of the Senate election concluded, the Election Commission (EC) has come under criticism for lacking clear and uniform standards in the election process.

The civil society organizations and networks monitoring the Senate election on Tuesday (11 June) held a press conference to address issues they found with the EC’s election management as well as the complexity of the regulations governing the election.

Chatchai Pumpuang from ActLab said the EC exercised arbitrary power to scrutinize and disqualify Senate candidates. The EC’s political party membership database was not updated, leading to some candidates being disqualified even though they had resigned more than a year earlier. A subsequent problem is that the law requires the accused to appeal to the courts within 3 days after acknowledging the EC’s decision that they are disqualified. He noted that this short timeframe is too tight, making it impossible for candidates to defend their rights.

Filing a complaint is challenging

The EC claimed that the election ran smoothly, with only a small number of 22 complaints filed. But Krit Saengsurin from We Watch said the low number of complaints was due to the difficulty in filing a complaint. According to the regulations, only the candidates themselves can file complaints. In addition, a complaint must be submitted within 3 days and the complainants are required to show evidence. He remarked that obtaining the evidence is challenging since mobile phones and cameras are prohibited inside the polling stations.

Given the restrictions, Krit said only observers were able to collect the evidence, but they too faced obstacles. The EC did not publicly announce that the general public could observe the election until just one day prior. Even then, they were only permitted to view the processes on television screens and were prohibited from taking photos of those screens.

In some polling stations, observers were asked for personal information by police officers, making them feel insecure. He said the election was not as transparent and fair as the EC claimed.

The EC’s management lacks consistent standards

Theerat Panichudompat from the Committee Campaigning for a People’s Constitution said the EC’s election management had no uniform standards. Based on reports from observers across the country, he found that the election process varied in several areas, noting that this could significantly affect the election results.

The EC also seemed to lack a full understanding of how to count the votes, which affects the number of votes the candidates received. Where the EC made mistakes in the vote counting, the candidate had no way to gather evidence showing how the EC made the error.

Some polling stations allowed candidates to freely discuss their ideas and principles with other candidates while such discussion was strictly prohibited in others.

Theerat asserted that clear and consistent standards for the Senate election process are crucial. The candidates should not have to rely on luck to determine whether they encounter strict or lenient polling stations. Additionally, allowing the candidates to introduce themselves to one another is important for effective decision-making.

Yingcheep Atchanont from iLaw proposed that the EC and officials should be better prepared to work faster for the upcoming provincial-level elections this Sunday, which involve hundreds of shortlisted candidates.

Secondly, he suggested that the EC should allow public participation, which does not mean merely observing from screens as in the first round. Designated areas in the polling stations should be arranged for observers.

Thirdly, the EC has to clarify whether candidates are permitted to talk to one another and how the self-introduction documents are distributed. 

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