Nutthawat Wongitsaraphap, Director of the Phuket office of the Election Commission (PEC), confirmed that the ECT posted the raft of new election laws – seven in total – on Wednesday (Apr 17). (See ECT post here.)
“The seven new laws were ratified and published in the Government Gazette on Tuesday, and came into effect on Wednesday,” Mr Nutthawat told The Phuket News today (Apr 19).
Each of the seven new laws pertain to each level of local government, he explained.
As such there is now one new act for local municipality (tessabaan) elections, one for tambon administration organisations (OrBortor) elections and one for elections for elected positions among Provincial Administration Organisations (OrBorJor), and so on, he said.
One the new acts pertains specifically to the “process of elections”, Mr Nutthawat noted.
The new laws include some important changes, he added.
Mr Nutthawat pointed to each new law to highlight the changes, but today declined to identify which changes he considered as the most important.
However, Mr Nutthawat in February identified to The Phuket News several key changes already made in the bills before the changes were made into law. (See story here.)
“There have been some important changes,” Mr Nutthawat said at the time.
Among them, successful candidates cannot hold the office of Mayor or OrBorTor Chief for more than two consecutive terms. Previously, successfully candidates could be re-elected to office indefinitely.
Also, each village used to have two representatives on the local OrBorTor council. They now have only one.
Further, mayors or OrBorTor chiefs previously had to be at least 30 years old. Now they must be at least 35 years old.
The conditions for the PEC organising local elections has also changed, Mr Nutthawat explained.
Previously, the PEC had to organise and coordinate local elections themselves, now they can hand over the operational aspects of holding local elections to a committee or third party.
Meanwhile, each local election will by law invoke a 24-hour ban on the sale of alcohol from 6pm on the day before the election until 6pm on the day of the election.
The ban is enacted by Section 147 of the Organic Act on the Election Commission, B.E. 2018, which states that any person who sells or distributes liquor of any kind in the election area between 6pm on the day before the election day until 6pm of the election day shall be punished with up to six months’ jail or a fine of up to B10,000, or both.
Although the new local election laws have now been passed and brought into effect, Mr Nutthawat said today that the PEC is still not empowered to make any preparations for local elections to be held across the island.
“According to the laws themselves, we must wait for the NCPO to announce when the local elections will be held,” he said.
Phuket will need to hold elections for 18 local administrative bodies: six OrBorTor, 11 municipalities and the Phuket Provincial Administration Organisation (PPAO, or OrBorJor).
All of them have already exceeded the maximum four years per term allowed under the Election Act, Mr Nutthawat noted earlier this year.
The situation had arisen from the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) “freezing” all local administrations since May 2014, with no local elections to be held until further notice, Mr Nutthawat explained.
“All of them have already exceeded the maximum four years per term allowed under the Election Act,” he said.
Regardless, Mr Nutthawat still expects the local elections to be held within the coming few months.
“The ECT posted the new laws to make sure everybody is aware that local elections will be held soon,” he said.
“So I still expect local elections to be held across the island by mid-year,” he added.