Two major political parties have challenged the junta’s new regulation which handicaps old parties amid criticism that the military is manipulating the election laws for the benefit of new parties in the next general election scheduled in November 2018.
On 27 December 2017, Ruangkrai Leekitwattana, a member of the Pheu Thai Party legal team, submitted a petition
to the Constitution Court asking it to rule whether the junta’s endorsement of Head of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) Order 53/2017 is constitutional.
On 22 December, the NCPO invoked its absolute power under Section 44 of the Interim Charter to issue an order to allow some political activities while the general ban on political activity remains.
The order states that members of a political party who intend to continue their membership have to “draft a letter” to confirm their intention to the party leader. They must also attach evidence that they are eligible members, according to the Organic Act on Political Parties. This must be done by 1 May.
This means that the established political parties have to get their current members nationwide to send the letters and evidence within the given period. Otherwise, their membership will be invalidated.
Several politicians have subsequently condemned the order as the junta’s attempt to create an excessive burden for old-established parties, given reports and rumours that the NCPO plans to support small parties in the next election.
Ruangkrai argued that the order contradicts the 2017 Charter’s sections on the people’s right to form a political party, adding that the order is also unconstitutional for the lack of public participation during the drafting process.
“The fact that this order forces members of political parties themselves to draft a letter to confirm membership is difficult. There is writing the document and sending supporting evidence. Are people capable of doing this? Is it a violation of their rights?” asked Ruangkrai. “In fact, it should be the duty of the party to check if their members have the qualifications or not. This is not the responsibility of party members.”
On the same day, leader of the Democrat Party Abhisit Vejjajiva revealed that he had appointed the party’s legal team to investigate if Order 53/2017 is unconstitutional. If so, the Democrats may also petition the Constitution Court early next year.
“If there's a condition that breaks the constitution, there’s a possibility that we will petition the Constitution Court,” said Abhisit.