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06BANGKOK2156 THAILAND’S OTHER ELECTION: SENATE ELECTIONS APPROACH AS THAILAND GIRDS FOR MORE LOWER HOUSE POLLS

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“60234”,”4/12/2006 9:31″,”06BANGKOK2156″,

 

“Embassy Bangkok”,”UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY”,

“06BANGKOK2088”,

“This record is a partial extract of the original cable.

The full text of the original cable is not available.

 

“,”UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 BANGKOK 002156

 

SIPDIS

 

SENSITIVE

 

E.O. 12958: N/A

TAGS: PGOV, TH, Elections – Thai

SUBJECT: THAILAND\’S OTHER ELECTION: SENATE ELECTIONS

APPROACH AS THAILAND GIRDS FOR MORE LOWER HOUSE POLLS

 

REF: BANGKOK 2088

 

1. (SBU) Summary: Elections for Thailand\’s 200 Senate

seats are scheduled to be held on April 19. The nominally

non-political Senate body was last elected in 2000. Its

members cannot succeed themselves at the end of their six

year term. Though strict, (and in some cases bewildering)

guidelines claim to ensure the non-political status of the

body, reality is something else. The outgoing Senate was

accused by Thaksin\’s critics of being heavily influenced by

the Prime Minister and his party. The slate of candidates

running for the new Senate appears to contain many contenders

with connections to political parties and suggests that the

institution will remain subject to political pressures. This

Senate election is being held amidst the current lower house

election imbroglio. While it has no active part in the

constitutional reform process, the body will at least

nominally retain a role in approving the final agreement.

End summary.

 

WHAT\’S AT STAKE

 

2. (U) On April 19, Thai voters will choose 200 Senators

from among some 1,400 candidates nationwide. Each province

is regarded as one constituency and awarded Senate seats

proportional to population. In cases where a province has

more than one senatorial seat, the candidates who receive the

highest number of votes in respective order will be elected

as Senators up to the seats available.

 

RULES TO ASSURE \”QUALITY AND NEUTRALITY\”

 

3. (U) The framers of the 1997 Constitution conceived the

Senate as a \”non-political\” body of well-qualified, well-

regarded citizens, who would be elected to only one six-year

term and act as a non-partisan watchdog over the \”political\”

lower house of Parliament. To ensure a pool of \”quality\”

candidates, this meant a strict and sometimes bewildering set

of rules on candidates qualifications and campaign rules.

Contenders must, for example, be over 40, hold a bachelors

degree or equivalent and be registered in the province they

stand for election in for not less than one year before

applying for candidacy.

 

4. (U) On the other hand, candidates cannot be a member of

a political party, a Senator in the preceding term, an MP

less than a year before announcing candidacy, bankrupt, be

under criminal court proceedings, having been sentenced by

the court to imprisonment of two years or more, except for an

offense committed through negligence; have been ordered by

the court to have his/her assets confiscated on the ground of

unusual wealth, be a government official holding a permanent

position; be a member of a local assembly or a local

administrator; be an official or employee of a State agency,

State enterprise or local government organization, or other

State official; be an Election Commissioner, an Ombudsman, a

member of the National Human Right Commission, a judge of the

Constitutional Court, a judge of an Administrative Court, a

member of the National Counter Corruption Commission or a

member of the State Audit Commission; or have been removed

from office by the resolution of the Senate under Section 307

of the Constitution with in the past 5 years as to the

election day.

 

A \”NON-PARTISAN CAMPAIGN\”

 

5. (SBU) To ensure the neutrality of a senator, the

election law stipulates that political parties cannot assist

or support senatorial candidates directly or indirectly. The

spirit of the law is that senatorial candidates should be a

person already widely known in each province for their works

and qualifications. Candidates\’ introduction are arranged by

the Election Commission, and includes sending bio-data of

candidates to every household, organizing \”candidates meet

the people\” events in public places, setting up posters and

the allocation of TV and radio air time. In their public

statements candidates cannot even promise what they would do

if elected (though most voters here would assert that a

promise by a candidate for office is far from relevant

anyway). Loud-speakers cannot be not be used by senatorial

candidates to introduce themselves. The distribution of

self-introduction flyers or pamphlets cannot be made in

public areas.

 

POWERS OF THE BODY

 

6. (U) The Senate has rights to, among other things,

reconsideration of a bill objected to by the King; approval

of the early prorogation of Parliament session; drafting of

the rules of procedure for the joint sitting; approval of

treaties made with foreign countries. and to scrutinize draft

laws that have passed the House of Representatives

 

7. (U) One of the Senate\’s more significant (and abused say

its critics) powers is in its role in vetting some or in many

cases all nominees for the \”independent bodies\” such as the

Election Commission, Ombudsmen, National Human Rights

Commission, Constitutional Court, Commission of Court of

Justice, Administrative Court (including a Court member who

will take the chairmanship of the Administrative Court and

nominees for Administrative Court Commission), National

Counter-Corruption Commission (including the NCCC

Secretary-General), and Auditor-General Commission. The

 

SIPDIS

Senate\’s selections are forwarded to the King for his

approval (or disapproval). (Note: This has been a major

point of the Senate\’s critics however. Much of the wave of

sentiment for political reform comes, critics say, from the

Senate\’s role in helping Thaksin subvert the governance

process by putting his cronies into these so-called watchdog

bodies.) (See reftel.)

 

8. (U) Another key function of the Senate is its potential

(and to date very rarely used) role in the impeachment

process. The Senate is able to initiate this process at the

request of one fourth of the lower house, or through the

petition (certified signatures) of 50,000 persons. The

Senate takes up impeachment hearings after first referring

the case to the National Counter Corruption Commission for

investigation and decision. Three fifths of the Senate can

impeach a person from his position, and the Senate\’s decision

is final. The Senate is empowered to impeach the Prime

Minister, ministers, members of the House of Representatives,

members of the Senate, President of the Supreme Court of

Justice, President of the Constitutional Court, President of

the Supreme Administrative Court, the Attorney-General,

members of Election Commission, Ombudsmen, Constitutional

Court tribunals, members of the Auditor-General, judges or

tribunals, State Attorney, and high ranking officials in

National Counter-Corruption Commission if they are found

involved in corrupt practices.

 

BUT NON-POLITICAL SENATE – WHO BELIEVES THIS?

 

9. (SBU) The outgoing Senate, elected under these rules,

nonetheless was widely criticized as being to a significant

degree under the influence of Thaksin\’s Thai Rak Thai (TRT)

party and to a lesser degree the main opposition Democrat

Party (DP). There have been repeated allegations that the

ruling party paid off Senators to win their support. Critics

accused the previous Senate of being faction-ridden and

acting more as an enabler for Thaksin\’s alleged packing of

the independent bodies than as a watchdog institution. The

candidate list for this Senate suggests that this accusation

will continue. A perusal of the slates reveals numerous

candidates throughout the country who are either spouses or

siblings of MPs from the TRT or DP, ex- ministers from both

parties (as well as the opposition Chart Thai Party), ex-MPs,

or simply known strong supporters of political parties.

While the concept may have been good, observers here say, the

reality of politics, personal connections and family ties all

militate against the idea.

 

OVERSHADOWED BY LOWER HOUSE RERUN ELECTIONS

 

10. (SBU) Comment: The Senate poll is being overshadowed

by the current political imbroglio. Considerably more public

attention is being paid to the 40 lower house seats being

rerun on April 23. Because the Senate cannot propose

amendments under the current Constitution, it does not have a

proactive role in the upcoming political reform process.

Its major act in the program will probably be to give

pro-forma approval to whatever the lower house or

constitutional drafting committee approves and sends up.

 

BOYCE

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Written by thaicables

July 11, 2011 at 7:48 am

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