To the Courts

The King’s speech, as covered by BangkokPundit and fringer.org, has certainly broken the stalemate that has settled on the political scene since Mr Thaksin’s quasi-resignation. Aside from resolutely rejecting any chance of a royally appointed prime minister (which in itself is not surprising), His Majesty shifted the focus on the only technically functioning branch of government left standing – the judiciary in the form of the Constitutional and Administrative Court.

The King made a direct appeal to the courts to ‘move the country forward’ and ensure a full and functioning parliament critical to democratic rule. How? The current line of speculation seems to be whether the courts should rule the 2 April election null and void to pave way for new elections that would include the 3 former opposition parties. This seems to be based on the hypothetical situation the Kind alluded to in his speech:

… แล้วก็อีกข้อหนึ่งคือการที่จะบอกว่าจะมีการยุบสภา และต้องเลือกตั้งภายใน 30 วัน ถูกต้องหรือไม่…ไม่พูดถึง ไม่พูดเลย ถ้าไม่ถูกก็จะต้องแก้ไข แล้วก็อาจจะให้การเลือกตั้งเป็นโมฆะหรือไม่ ซึ่งท่านจะมีสิทธิที่จะบอกว่า อะไรที่ควรหรือไม่ควร…

I’m not sure how this would come about so soon, for two reasons. The judges themselves remind us they can’t make a ruling out of thin air – it depends on the question raised in a petition made to them. Krungthep Turakij has a nice summary of the pending cases – none of them would warrant anything as drastic as annulling the election. (Anyone know what’s the standing of the case brought on by the PAD/Democrats against the EC?)

The other reason is whether any court has any constitutional power to decide on election matters – it seems the constitution places this mandate mostly with the Election Commission. One judge says:

เมื่อถามว่ามีความเป็นไปได้หรือไม่ ที่การประชุมสามศาลจะมีแนวทางให้ กกต.จัดการเลือกตั้งใหม่ นายชัชตอบว่า อาจเป็นไปได้ แต่แนวทางดังกล่าวคงไม่ใช่ลักษณะของการออกคำสั่งในคดี เพื่อให้ กกต.ปฏิบัติตาม แต่จะเป็นการเสนอความคิดเห็น และข้อเสนอแนะ ในส่วนที่เป็นเสียงสะท้อนจากตุลาการ ให้ กกต.พิจารณาเพื่อปฏิบัติตามกฎหมาย ซึ่งต้องยอมรับว่า กกต. มีหน้าที่จัดการเลือกตั้งให้ถูกต้องสมบูรณ์ครบถ้วน

My guess is that the third round of elections will need to be complete before any intervention from the courts will come about. Even with the election, however, we won’t get the full 500 members of the house in place (one TRT party list MP has quit to join the monkhood) and the house will continue to be an unrepresentative sapha joke lacking legitimacy. The Constitutional Court will be asked to rule on a way out which would eventually pave way for new elections. It will be an interesting few weeks.

Update: Moved Chang Noi’s political puzzle to a different post.

Another Update: Blogger Etat de droit has some (more expert) comments on the situation as well. Aside from wondering if any court will be able to consider an election annullment case, he says the judges seem to have already set on a ‘goal’:

กรณีนี้ถือเป็นปรากฏการณ์ครั้งหนึ่งในประวัติศาสตร์การเมืองและกฎหมายไทย ที่เรามี “ธง” ในใจเรียบร้อย แต่ต้องควานหาคนเอา “ธง” นั้นไปใช้

Golfee over at pressjargon.com coins a new phrase: การเลือกตั้งพระราชทาน (royally-bestowed election).

5 responses to “To the Courts

  1. Even with the election, however, we won’t get the full 500 members of the house in place (one TRT party list MP has quit to join the monkhood) and the house will continue to be an unrepresentative sapha joke lacking legitimacy.

    On the party list question, maybe not.

    One option, if I was TRT would be to get the 500 seats and then say they will dissolve the House – no need to void the elections. Perhaps, they can do this anyway without the 500 seats.

    We will have to wait for the election outcome. If TRT go through this route they should announce it immediately.

  2. As a little law student, I agree with this statements:

    “เมื่อถามว่ามีความเป็นไปได้หรือไม่ ที่การประชุมสามศาลจะมีแนวทางให้ กกต.จัดการเลือกตั้งใหม่ นายชัชตอบว่า อาจเป็นไปได้ แต่แนวทางดังกล่าวคงไม่ใช่ลักษณะของการออกคำสั่งในคดี เพื่อให้ กกต.ปฏิบัติตาม แต่จะเป็นการเสนอความคิดเห็น และข้อเสนอแนะ ในส่วนที่เป็นเสียงสะท้อนจากตุลาการ ให้ กกต.พิจารณาเพื่อปฏิบัติตามกฎหมาย ซึ่งต้องยอมรับว่า กกต. มีหน้าที่จัดการเลือกตั้งให้ถูกต้องสมบูรณ์ครบถ้วน”

    According to legal theory, it is almost impossible for the court to intervene the action of government, namely political action, such as the Assembly dissolve! In short, the court has no authority to consider this political problem; recommendation might be better and legitimate to be announced.

  3. JW: The party list question will have to go up to the Constitutional Court I think – it’s still very much open, even after the non-binding opinion of the Council of State.

    I like your option – but to its opponents, TRT may not have the credibility to pull it off. The King has spoken, so it seems everyone is waiting for the courts.

    Khun POL_US: Agreed krub, I think there’s very little ground to overturn the house dissolution decree. The judges may instead scrutinize actions of the Election commission to see if they’ve done anything unlawful. (The statement you quoted was in response to this line of questioning).

    The EC is not part of the executive branch, its actions are not an “action of the government”. The judges are thinking of reviewing how much the EC should fall under judicial review it seems (maybe reversing “[a] 2003 ruling by the Constitutional Court declared that all Election Commission decisions concerning the specifics of elections were “conclusive”?).

  4. The second option would be if it was not possible to fill the 500 seats within the 30 day period then nullify the 2 April election and hold new elections – sounds strange, but given the 3 opposition parties will now contest the new elections it is a practical option. This should only be done after the Constitution Court says that the House cannot convene because it does not meet the 500 seat requirement

    I am just concerned, like POL_US, on the court moving into an area on politics particularly if they are changing legal tests.

  5. Pingback: 2 April Election Date « Asian Correspondent·

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