Elected senator Nikom Wairatpanich’s senate speaker election victory has raised concerns about the Upper House’s impartiality.
In the election yesterday to find a replacement for Teeradej Meepian, Nikom beat Pichet Sunthornphipit, an appointed senator, by a vote of 77-69.
His appointment is a blow for the so-called Group of 40 Senators, who are highly critical of the government.
Nikom’s support mainly came from elected senators who usually vote in favour of the Pheu Thai-led administration. He was also nominated for the job by Direk Thuengfang, a staunch supporter of the government’s charter amendment and reconciliation bids.
Nikom’s work record also speaks volumes about his political affiliations.
He served as the city clerk when the late former prime minister Samak Sundaravej was the Bangkok governor.
The new senate speaker has been heard saying how grateful he is to Samak for introducing him to politics.
What the Group of 40 Senators is believed to fear most is that Nikom may push for a charter amendment that would eliminate the appointed senators.
The Senate has 150 members _ 76 elected, one from each province, and 74 appointed through a selection process.
However, Nikom, in his capacity as deputy senate speaker, did not show his political leanings.
Nikom yesterday vowed to strictly adhere to the rule of law at the same time as admitting that he was seen as politically partial.
“I won’t yield to political pressure,” he said.
“It should be clear to you that I have tried to help the country break an impasse.
“This is because I believe that the senate should not be part of the political conflict.
“I will resort to compromise and avoid violence.”
He declined to reveal his stance on the appointment of senators, but said the origin of senators may be considered.
However, he urged the public to avoid dividing the senators into two camps _ elected and appointed.
Four senators contested the race for the senate speaker post.
Two were elected senators _ Nikom of Chachoengsao province and Kecha Saksomboon of Ratchaburi _ and two were appointed senators _ Pichet and Sunan Singsomboon.
To win the race, the candidate must receive support from half of the voters, or 73 from 146 voters attending the meeting.
Pichet came first with 63 votes, followed by Nikom with 46, Kecha with 35, and Ms Sunan with two votes.
A fresh vote was called because Pichet did not manage to secure the required support.
Pichet and Nikom competed in the second round of voting and Nikom beat Pichet to win the post.
The selection of the new speaker was called after Gen Teeradej was dismissed from the post after the Criminal Court sentenced him to two years in jail, suspended for two years, for wrongfully awarding himself and two of his subordinates monthly meeting allowances while he was chief ombudsman in 2004.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court’s Election Division yesterday disqualified appointed senator Prajit Rojanaphruk for failing to vote in a by-election in Pathum Thani in 2009.
The Supreme Court also imposed a five-year political ban on Prajit, as recommended by the Election Commission (EC).
Based on the EC’s report, Prajit failed to cast his vote and did not clarify to the EC the reason for his no-show.
As a result, he was not eligible to be nominated for a senator post.
Prajit was nominated by the Foreign Ministry’s Department of Information.
He was previously ambassador to the Philippines, Russia and Mongolia and was a former director-general of the Treaties and Legal Affairs Department.