BANGKOK (THE NATION/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Thailand's Constitutional Court on Wednesday (April 24) rejected a petition by the Election Commission (EC) seeking its ruling on the method of calculating and allocating party-list seats.
The court's decision is seen as a setback for the poll agency, as it must now resolve the seat-calculation formula without violating the Constitution, and that could lead to a delay in forming the new government.
The court ruled seven to two that it was the EC's responsibility to calculate the seats, which it needed to do after endorsing the constituency MP results.
"Since the facts showed that the petitioner had yet to use its authority (to calculate) as stated by law, a problem related to its duty and authority has yet to occur. Hence, the court is not authorised to offer an opinion," the court statement said.
The EC will meet on Thursday to discuss the dismissal. The EC earlier this month submitted the case to the court after days of disagreement and debate over the calculation method to be used for calculating the party-list MP seats.
The EC conceded that its preferred formula may not meet constitutional requirements, but said that other calculations would not enable it to fill all 150 party-list seats.
"It will not be easy for the EC (to finish the calculation) and chaos is expected," said political scientist Yuthaporn Issarachai from Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University.
"The agency needs to be prepared for any possible lawsuits that might occur after its calculation."
Mr Yuthaporn said it would take a while for the EC to finalise and announce the official results and that would mean a delay in forming the next government.
It is now a month since the March 24 election, but the calculation method for party-list MP seats remains unresolved, a dilemma that could affect the possibility of any bloc being able to form a coalition government.
Based on unofficial results, both the anti-junta and pro-junta camps are neck and neck in total MPs counts - the Pheu Thai-led group has 252 MPs and the Palang Pracharath-led bloc is expected to find 248 supporters.
The World Bank has expressed concern over the delay in forming the new government after the inconclusive outcome of the general election and suggested it could affect investment confidence.
The bank said that near-term growth projections assume that the government will deliver on its planned public infrastructure projects, with the pace scheduled to accelerate in 2019 and pick up further in 2020 as those related to the Eastern Economic Corridor are implemented.
In a related development, the EC on Wednesday issued an "orange card" to Mr Surapon Kietchaiyakorn, a Pheu Thai candidate, for allegedly buying votes in his parliamentary seat in Chiang Mai province.
This is the first card the EC has issued to a candidate since the general election.
Under the laws, a candidate who is given the orange card will lose their electoral rights for one year.
A re-election would be held and all votes received by parties in the March 24 election annulled.
According to unofficial EC results, Mr Surapon won the most constituency votes with 52,165 votes, but he will be disqualified from standing in the re-run of the election.
The EC will ask the Supreme Court for the election re-run, which is expected to be held after May 9, the deadline the EC needs to meet to endorse the constituency MP results, according to Mr Sawang Boonmee, EC's deputy secretary-general.
Mr Sawang said the EC would also press criminal charges against Mr Surapon. Mr Surapon, meanwhile, said he had already learnt of the EC's decision and was waiting for an official notification.
He admitted that he had donated 2,000 baht (S$85) and a wall clock to a monk at a religious event during the campaign period, something he said he had done on many occasions.
He added that the monk in question had already testified to the EC.
"I am still in good spirits. I believe this issue is politically motivated, as the EC could have given me a yellow card, which would have allowed me to re-run. However, it issued an orange card to prevent me from contesting again," he said in a telephone interview.