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EC rules House Speaker guilty of vote-buying


February 27, 2008

EC rules House Speaker guilty of vote-buying

Thailand's Election Commission (EC) on Tuesday ruled with a vote of 3 to 2 to disqualify House Speaker and President of Parliament Yongyuth Tiyapairaj for alleged election fraud in Chiang Rai, his electoral constituency in the north.

The EC’s decision could also lead to the dissolution of the ruling People Power Party (PPP), in which Yongyuth is a deputy leader.

Speaking after the meeting of EC, Somchai Chuengprasert, commissioner in charge of investigations, said the five-member commission would petition the Supreme Court's Election Frauds Department to nullify Yongyuth's victory and remove his election right for alleged election vote-rigging.

Should the court accept the petition, Mr. Yongyuth's duty as House Speaker and President of Parliament must be immediately suspended although he would be allowed to retain his seat pending a verdict.

If the court upholds the EC's decision to disqualify him, he would lose his parliamentary seat and face a five-year ban from the electoral process, he was quoted as telling Thai News Agency.

The ruling, based on evidence Yongyuth had mobilised village chiefs to buy votes, will have to be endorsed by the Supreme Court and the commission will then hold hearings into whether the party itself was behind the violation. The case will then go to the Constitutional Court, which will rule on whether to disband the entire PPP.

Yongyuth, a former minister and close ally of Thaksin, said he would step down as house speaker temporarily while he fought the charges. At a press conference called the ruling “a systematic political attempt to sabotage the People Power Party and deprive me of justice."

There were fears that possible disbanding of the PPP would cause a serious political crisis. According to EC chief Suthiphon Thaveechaiyagarn, it will take two weeks to forward the decision on Yongyuth to the Supreme Court, which, legal analysts believe, could take a couple of months to deliver its ruling.

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