Small parties merge ahead of primary vote move

Three small parties are merging to prepare for the implementation of a primary vote as proposed by the organic bill on political parties, according to Sompong Sakawee of the National Reform Steering Assembly (NRSA).

Mr Sompong said Wednesday he had tendered his resignation from the NRSA to prepare for the general election that is expected some time next year. His resignation will take effect this Saturday.

Two other former members of the assembly, Lt Gen Thawatchai Samutsakorn and Col Suchart Chantharachotikul, plan to join Mr Sompong in aligning with a small party that has already been registered, he said. He did not disclose its name or other details of the move.

Mr Sompong said the move was aimed at political reform.

His group is also courting two other small parties to merge with it, he said. Such a union would increase the party’s capacity to recruit members and open branches in all constituencies as required by the proposed primary vote system.

Mr Sompong said this coming together would help ease the burden in meeting the requirements for the primaries.

He insisted his party would not serve as a proxy for the military, even though some senior officers have expressed interest in joining.

However, he said he would be open to an alliance with a military-formed party in the future.

Also Wednesday, Nipit Intharasombat, deputy leader of the Democrat Party, urged Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to clarify whether he plans to set up a party for the next election.

Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) chairman Meechai Ruchupan denied his body was against the idea of holding primaries and said the CDC has never challenged the principle of having members and branches nominate candidate MPs.

While the proposal is not anti-constitutional, there might be practical problems in carrying it out, he said. These are written into the organic bill on political parties that recently won the vote of the National Legislative Assembly (NLA), he added.

Mr Meechai said he was confident the joint panel that is being set up to fine-tune all details of the primaries would ensure MPs are selected in compliance with the law and that there are no complications in executing the policy.

Yet many parties have expressed concern their ranks may shrink as a result of the primaries because they cannot afford, or lack the time, to open branches and recruit members.

The joint panel comprises 11 members from the NLA, the Election Commission and the CDC, with Mr Meechai emerging as a likely chairman.

“The CDC never said we oppose [the idea of holding a primary vote],” he said.

The joint panel will focus on improving the proposal so it is easier for political parties to adopt the new system, Mr Meechai said.

The EC will ensure all parties have enough time to prepare for the primary vote, he added.

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