Several groups have shown interests in setting up new political parties, including one led by a mistress of former coup leader Sunthorn Kongsompong.
Ampapan Thanate-dejsunthorn, a former mistress of the late Gen Sunthorn, who staged a coup in 1991 to topple the government of Gen Chatichai Choonhavan, said she would set up a party to be called Pheu Chart Thai.
“We aim for it to be a link between supporters of coups and those of democracy. A proper regime can then be created since we fully understand the views of both sides,” she said at a meeting held by the Election Commission (EC) on Friday to provide guidelines for potential party founders.
Asked whether her party would support Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha as the unelected PM, Ms Ampapan said her party had nothing against an outsider PM because it was constitutional.
Her party also has nothing against a delay of the general election. “It will be clear one day. Just give them time,” she said.
At the meeting, existing medium-sized and small parties showed their preference to setting up new parties instead of keeping their existing ones to circumvent numerous restrictions.
A total of 291 people from 114 groups registered to attend the meeting.
The National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) issued an order late last year new-party founders to send applications and seek its permission in March. The same order allows existing parties to start reviewing the qualifications of party members in line with the new laws in April.
Since existing parties are required to seek confirmation of members, a process that adds to their administrative burden, several of the small and medium-sized ones plan to set up new parties to bypass that requirement.
Some 10 large parties, on the other hand, have no problem doing so because they need to keep their images and brands.
Krit-anong Suwannawong, leader of the People’s Network Power Party, said she would set up a new party by rebranding the old one due to the complicated process to comply with the new laws.
By having party executives resign and not confirming the party member database, her party will automatically be disqualified, she said.
“It’s much easier to set up a new party. We don’t need to track existing members and explain to them the need to fill a form and reapply. It’s also a good opportunity to rebrand ourselves to reach out to more target groups beyond the direct-sale community. Other groups will likely join us such as those of actors,” she said.
Vichit Dittaprasop, leader of National Progressive Democracy Party, shared her view.
“All that is required is a 1-million-baht seed fund and 500 founding members. And we don’t have to bother with checking the qualifications of existing members,” he said.
He added nine existing small parties were planning to merge so they could field candidates in all 350 constituencies as constitutionally required. The new entity hopes to win some of the 150 party-list seats.
Samphan Lertnuwat, a former Pheu Thai party MP, said he was forming a new party called People’s Power Party with 10 former MPs.
He said the new rules were not too difficult for veteran politicians and that he agreed with the requirement that a party had a seed fund so that it didn’t need to find a financier from the start.
Asked whether the new party would become a reserve or nominee party for a large party, Mr Samphan said time had changed and this was no longer the case.
“Gone are the days of the Samaggi Tham party [set up to support Gen Suchinda Kraprayoon after the 1991 coup],” he said.
He also made clear his new party had no objection to an outsider prime minister so long as he was a good man.
Anutin Charnveerakul, leader of the mid-sized Bhumjaithai Party, who came to the meeting as an observer, said: “We can reach the destination without a spare tyre. Setting up a spare party will give us more headaches.”
Bhumjaithai can comply with the new rules, he said. “Even though some factions might not like it, we don’t want to rock the boat and give another excuse for further [election] delays.”
Somchai Srisutthiyakorn, an acting election commissioner, said the EC had opposed five points of the election bill and one of the senators bill. It sent the details to the president of the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) on Thursday.
An 11-member panel comprising five NLA representatives, five constitutional writers and the EC president will then be set up to reconcile the differences.
Among the arguments is the use of entertainment activities during election campaigns, a point the EC and the charter drafters do not agree with.
“We hope after the bill is reconciled, the NLA will accept it and doesn’t kill it with two-thirds of votes. If it does so, a new bill will have to be drafted from the ground up and the election will be delayed by at least six months,” he said.