PPP may be next in the firing line

EC votes to disband two coalition parties

MONGKOL BANGPRAPA

The People Power party could well be in jeopardy following the Election Commission's decision yesterday to push for the dissolution of its two coalition partners, the Chart Thai and Matchimathipataya parties, through the Constitution Court.

After the EC's decision was announced, PPP spokesman Kuthep Saikrachang was pessimistic about the future of the Thaksin Shinawatra-backed party.

Getting rid of the PPP had been a target before the creation of the present constitution whose writers were handpicked by the coup-making body, the Council for National Security, he said.

The PPP was the winner in the December poll and set up the government with five other parties as partners.

As the Chart Thai and Matchimathipataya had joined the PPP in forming the government, they were considered to be in the same boat, he said.

Mr Kuthep blamed Article 237 of the constitution as the weapon used to meet the objective as it states that the entire party should be held responsible for any wrongdoing by a single party executive.

''A good constitution should not have been written like that,'' he said.

Still, the dissolution routes of Chart Thai and Matchimathipataya and the PPP are slightly different, although their fates rest with the Constitution Court.

The EC resolved by a 4:1 vote to ask the Constitution Court to disband Chart Thai and Matchimathipataya.

Chart Thai deputy secretary-general Monthien Songpracha and Matchimathipataya deputy leader Sunthorn Wilawan had been disqualified for vote-buying in Chainat and Prachin Buri.

The panel ruled in accordance with the recommendation of EC chairman Apichart Sukhagganond, the political party registrar.

The next step is for the case to go to the Attorney-General's Office. Even if the attorney-general disagrees, the EC still has the authority to file the request with the Constitution Court itself.

The lone vote against the disbanding among the five election commissioners was believed to have come from Somchai Jungprasert, thinking the wrongdoing by the two men was committed without the knowledge of their parties, and so their parties should not be punished.

In the PPP's case, the EC is waiting for the Supreme Court to disqualify former deputy leader Yongyuth Tiyapairat, also for vote-buying, in his home province of Chiang Rai.

If Mr Yongyuth is disqualified as an MP, the case will immediately be forwarded to the Constitution Court.

''Things should not be too different from this case because Yongyuth's case is similar to Chart Thai and Matchimathipataya's,'' Mr Kuthep admitted. ''I think this course of action will not let the nation step forward,'' he said.

He added the PPP-led government was trying to have the charter amended for the sake of the nation's future.

Former prime minister Thaksin and leader of the disbanded Thai Rak Thai party, from where many PPP members came, showed no surprise at the EC's decision which he called part of a previously plotted out plan.

''Let them play. I'd rather watch,'' he said in Chiang Mai.

Chart Thai deputy leader Somsak Prissananantakul was not giving up hope of saving the party, saying the issue had not been finalised yet.

''The process has not been concluded because the EC must forward the issue to the attorney-general who will be the one to decide if it should be brought to the Constitution Court. I'd like parties concerned to carefully consider the matter so that the nation has a way out,'' Mr Somsak said.

Acting Matchimathipataya leader Anongwan Thepsuthin expressed disappointment with the EC.

''We wish to receive justice from the Constitution Court,'' she said.

According to the law, if the Constitution Court disbands a political party, all executives of the party would also be banned from politics for five years. MPs of a disbanded party must find a new party in 60 days.

Chart Thai deputy leader Sanan Kachornprasart said his former Mahachon party was ready to admit MPs from both the Chart Thai and Matchimathipataya parties.

Bangkok Post