Over 31,000 apply for Thai Senate as 5-year term ends

Picture courtesy of Laotian Times

Over 31,000 people have sought applications to become senators in the Thai Senate as the five-year term of 250 senators, installed by the defunct National Council for Peace and Order, concluded yesterday. The Election Commission (EC) anticipates approximately 100,000 applications for the 200 available senate positions.

Thai nationals born in Thailand, who are at least 40 years old and possess a minimum of 10 years of professional experience, can apply to become senators. Applicants must not be affiliated with any political party, hold a political post, work for government agencies, or be among the current 250 senators.

They must also not own any mass media outlets or have a history of drug addiction, bankruptcy, or imprisonment in the past decade. Former politicians or individuals with party positions can apply if they have not held such positions for at least five years.

Prospective candidates must select one of 20 professional categories. These categories include state service workers, legal professionals, educators, public health workers, farmers, fishers, cattle farmers and foresters, private sector workers and labourers, environment-related business operators, small and medium enterprise (SME) operators, large enterprise workers, tourism operators, industrial operators, science, technology and innovation professionals, women, seniors, individuals with disabilities, ethnic groups, artists and athletes, civic groups and NGOs, mass media professionals and writers, freelancers, and others.

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Applicants need to prove they were born in, studied, worked, or lived in the district for at least two years. Applications will be accepted from today, May 20 to May 24, with a fee of 2,500 baht.

Voters for the Senate are not the general public but the applicants themselves. They will vote within their chosen category and later select candidates from other categories in a self-selection process, marking the first time this system is implemented in Thailand. Voting will occur at three levels: district, provincial, and national.

Voting procedure

Each level involves two types of voting. Initially, candidates choose two individuals within their category, with the top five votes proceeding to cross-group voting. If fewer than five candidates exist in any category, all candidates move forward. In the event of a tie, a lucky draw will determine the outcome.

For cross-group voting, the 20 categories are divided into four groups. Candidates vote for one person per category within their group, with the top three from each category advancing to the provincial level. Provinces with many districts, such as Bangkok with 50 districts, will face more competition than smaller provinces like Phuket, which has three districts.

At the provincial level, the top two candidates of each category move to the national level. National-level voting will determine the top ten candidates in each category to become senators.

Following the application deadline on May 24, the EC will take five days to announce the candidate lists for each district on May 29. The district-level election is scheduled for June 9, followed by the provincial level on June 16, and the national level on June 26. The final results will be announced on July 2.

Candidates are prohibited from canvassing for votes. They may submit their qualifications on two A4 pages with their application, which will be distributed to other district candidates. Social media can be used to share personal information, but media interviews, public campaigns, posters, brochures, promotional events, and references to the monarchy are banned.

Candidates receiving assistance from parties, politicians, or other candidates will face penalties, including revocation of electoral rights.

Potential loopholes

Political analysts warn that the voting system has potential loopholes, allowing major parties to hire individuals to apply and vote for their candidates, thereby securing senatorial support for passing laws.

The Senate plays a crucial role, especially when the House seeks to amend the Constitution, requiring support from at least one-third of senators. Unlike the current 250 senators, the new Senate will not have the authority to vote for the prime minister. However, they will still oversee the appointment of members to independent bodies influencing national politics, including the EC, the Constitutional Court, the National Anti-Corruption Commission, and the Attorney General.

The EC is hopeful that senators with diverse experiences and backgrounds will represent various interests and work towards societal betterment.

The election outcome will reveal the influence of conservative or progressive groups and determine whether senators remain free from political influence, reported Bangkok Post.

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Bob Scott

Bob Scott is an experienced writer and editor with a passion for travel. Born and raised in Newcastle, England, he spent more than 10 years in Asia. He worked as a sports writer in the north of England and London before relocating to Asia. Now he resides in Bangkok, Thailand, where he is the Editor-in-Chief for The Thaiger English News. With a vast amount of experience from living and writing abroad, Bob Scott is an expert on all things related to Asian culture and lifestyle.

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