Judges call for EC to step aside

The country's top courts have suggested the Election Commission (EC) resign to pave the way for ''a smooth election process'', said Charan Phakdeethanakul, secretary-general to the Supreme Court. ''Nobody can force the EC's hands but the current situation needs sacrifices from phuyai [prominent figures]. And if those sacrifices pave the way for what looks like a smooth process, they'll be making a contribution to society,'' he said.

Mr Charan said invoking article 145(2) of the constitution, in which the EC is authorised to enlist help from other agencies in supervising elections, could limit the courts' involvement. The courts can do only what is asked of them and intervention by the courts may be inappropriate, he said.

''It's obvious the April 2 polls were found unconstitutional because of EC undertakings. So if the current commissioners remain, there are inherent risks in the [new] elections. They may not be smooth,'' he said.

''So the question is, is it possible for the EC to show responsibility and make sacrifices and make way for the courts to supervise the elections. This we need to discuss.''

Mr Charan was speaking after a meeting of Supreme Court president Charnchai Likitjitta, Administrative Court president Akarathon Chularat and Constitution Court president Pan Chantarapan.

The three top judges met after a Constitution Court ruling on Monday that nullified the April 2 general election and ordered new polls.

Mr Charan said the three courts have agreed they would help supervise the polls and work until the country had elected MPs and parliament opened.

The commissioners' ''sacrifices'' are not likely to lead to a dead-end as some fear, Mr Charan said. ''I'm confident that invocation of article 103(3) will get rid of the political vacuum.''

Article 103(3) allows the Supreme Court to pick 10 EC candidates and submit them to the Senate to select a final five.

However, all four commissioners remained defiant yesterday. EC secretary-general Ekkachai Warunprapha said no commissioner had discussed resigning.

About 100 EC staff yesterday gave moral support to the commissioners after the judiciary's comments.

A source close to the EC said the four told staff that resigning was not on their minds and they intended to stay and finish their work.

The source also quoted Pol Gen Wassana, the chairman, as saying he was not going to be driven out.

''I have dignity and am not a street dog. How can they drive me away like this?'' Pol Gen Wassana was quoted as saying.

Vorachet Phakeerat, a law lecturer at Thammasat University, said the courts' move might be improper. ''I'm concerned that if the courts get too involved in political affairs, politics may hit back. Moreover, it's difficult to examine the courts, and who is to examine the courts' use of power in politics,'' he said.

Law lecturer Bancherd Singkhaneti, of Thammasat University, said the move was unprecedented and unusual.

''But I think the courts are offering advice to resolve the crisis rather than applying pressure,'' he said.

Meanwhile, Prinya Thewanaruemitkul, a law lecturer at Thammasat University, yesterday suggested a plan to free politicians from the 90-day party membership rule, allowing them to contest fresh polls under the banner of new parties.

''They can choose the voting date first, for example Aug 15, then issue a decree on June 15 so politicians meet the 90-day requirement,'' he said.

In the Constitution Court ruling, the new elections must be organised within 60 days after the decree takes effect.

.....Bangkok Post