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Supreme Court to pick nominees for new EC today - deejay - 08-10-2006 04:35 AM

Supreme Court to pick nominees for new EC today

A new chapter in Thai politics will begin today when the Supreme Court picks 10 nominees for the new Election Commission (EC).

Eighty-six Supreme Court judges will select 10 of 42 candidates before passing their names to the Senate, which will decide on the five commissioners.

The selection process follows a Criminal Court verdict that found former commissioners Vasana Puemlarp, Prinya Nakchudtree and Virachai Naewboonnien guilty of improper management of the April 2 snap election.

Individuals described as "unfriendly" to caretaker Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his Thai Rak Thai Party reportedly stand out on the list of nominees.

One of them is Nam Yimyaem, a former Supreme Court judge who chaired the EC subcommittee that investigated allegations of poll fraud against Thai Rak Thai.

Nam's panel found there were grounds to prosecute Thai Rak Thai for allegedly hiring minor parties to contest the April 2 poll and subsequent ballot re-runs. The panel's findings led to an EC petition to the Constitution Court seeking the dissolution of Thai Rak Thai.

Recently-resigned senator Kaewsan Atibhodi is also favoured to make the final 10. Kaewsan has been critical of the Thai Rak Thai government since it assumed power in early 2001.

Kaewsan petitioned the Consti-tution Court early this year, shortly after Thaksin's family closed a Bt73-billion deal to sell Shin Corp to Singapore's Temasek Holdings. He claimed Thaksin was involved in the deal and lacked the integrity to be prime minister. The court, however, rejected his appeal.

Judges, both active and retired, make up a large core of nominees: 16. Others include three former EC officials, three caretaker senators and two university lecturers.

Prominent figures likely to be selected today include former election commissioners Sawat Chote-panit and Thirasak Kannasut, Supreme Court judge Wicha Mahakhun, former Appeals Court judge Udom Fuangfung, and Amornsak Noprampa, a former Supreme Court secretary who is now a bank executive.

The Constitution requires the EC to be served by five commissioners. Aside from the three former EC members convicted last month, one other commissioner resigned after the election, while the fifth one died last year.

Senior Thai Rak Thai figures are reportedly worried that individuals "not in agreement" with the government will be selected. Top party figures have even suggested that some of the favoured names could raise questions about the EC's neutrality. The last EC was widely regarded as pro-Thai Rak Thai and was urged to stand down by the heads of the top three courts after the April 2 poll was annulled.

In the Supreme Court's selection process, 42 applicants had their qualifications verified, as required by the Constitution, while some others failed to meet the criteria.

In the secret polling today by 86 judges, candidates will need to win more than half of the total votes, or a minimum of 44.

The Supreme Court normally nominates only five candidates to the Senate. But the legislature cannot form a selection committee because Parliament is not sitting. In the absence of a parliamentary panel the Constitution allows the Supreme Court to nominate all 10 candidates.

The new EC members may have only about two months to prepare for the next general election if it is held on October 15, as scheduled.

The Nation