Patong gears up for polls – again
PHUKET: The Phuket Election Commission (PEC) is preparing to organize an election for Patong Municipality following the dismissal of former Mayor Chalermsak Maneesri after two Provincial Court judges ruled that allegations of cheating in Patong Municipality elections in November last year were proven. Those wishing to enter the murky realm of Patong municipal politics will have from December 15 to 19 to file their candidacies with the PEC, although the election date has not yet been set. “This time we will assign four PEC members to monitor the Patong election,” said Prapa Kayee, President of the PEC. “Council candidates will be limited to 150,000 baht in campaign expenditures, while applicants for Mayor will be limited to 500,000 baht,” she added. The CEC is still considering whether those ruled by the court to have cheated in the last poll will be allowed to stand in the new election. The PEC has also concluded recounts in two more of the nine tambons with disputed results in the last round of Tambon Administration Organization (OrBorTor) elections, held on August 30. In Mai Khao Village 2, Narong Singkhala and Wirach Bailad were declared winners while Arnan Chokkuar and Jirasak Jandee won in Rawai Village 5. Neither recount overturned the original results. The findings will now be forwarded to the Central Election Commission (CEC) in Bangkok for final approval. K. Prapa said the recounts were required following charges of irregularity in the original balloting. New election rules allowing such recounts have resulted in the majority of Phuket’s 13 OrBorTor failing to convene and elect a president. As a result, many OrBorTor administrations have been left paralyzed, some offering only the most basic of services, such as garbage collection. Critics say the new rules make it too easy for sore losers to hold up OrBorTor planning work by filing complaints which put local government on hold while they are reviewed. K. Prapa said the CEC is expected to approve original election results soon in the following villages, despite calls for recounts: Chalong villages 5 and 7; Wichit village 1, Rawai village 4; Rassada villages 2 and 5; Sri Soontorn village 3; and Thepkrasattri villages 2 and 8. The CEC has already upheld election results in Kamala village 6 and Sri Soontorn village 6, where the winner had originally won by a single vote. The CEC also issued a “red card” to Sakoo village 5 winner Surach Jantawong following a probe into allegations of vote-buying. He will now be banned from running for office for five years. Fresh elections will be held there December 21. “It’s a slow process because so many people filed complaints, all of which need to be reviewed by the investigation committee,” K. Prapa said. “After that the CEC must consider each case and decide whether or not to approve the results.”
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