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How does Thailand vote?

Updated On: Apr 04, 2006

Preliminary vote-counts have indicated that the Thai Rak Thai party is likely to have lost Bangkok and the southern provinces.

The Bangkok Post reported that “as of Monday morning, Prime Minister Thaksin and Thai Rak Thai have almost completely lost Bangkok to the "no-vote" option. Many Bangkok constituences voted 3- or 4-to-1 against Thai Rak Thai… [while] similar numbers are reported in early returns from the South.”

Surprisingly, many Southerners turned up to vote despite the threat of violence and bombings in Narathiwat polling stations. They said they would cast blank votes to protest against Thaksin.

However it is still too early to confirm any leadership speculation. Thaksin relies on the rural vote and early returns show strong support from the North and Northeast such that another parliamentary majority could be expected.

Nonetheless Thaksin and his party are rattled by the high number of “no-votes”, causing him to call for an urgent meeting to discuss the situation. It is said that Thaksin, who has promised not to take office if he gains less than 50% of the votes, is considering whether to give way to Deputy PM Somkid Jatusripitak. However Thaksin is reserving public announcement of his political strategy only when election results are finalized. In reaction to this, opposition Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva declared, "This is a warning from the people… to have so many no votes.”

The Nation reported Banharn Silapaarcha, the leader of the Chart Thai Party, as saying that “there would not be enough MPs elected to make a quorum and open the first session of Parliament” such that it would be “necessary to hold new elections”.  “How long this will take, I don't know,” he added. Banyat Bantadtan, the former Democrat leader, said he also believes there will be several more rounds of elections and that “when there are more elections, the turnout will fall steadily”. It is uncertain what a prolonged voting period would bring about, but most certainly a constitutional crisis would occur.

As it stands, there are allegations of electoral fraud and the election may be annulled. The People's Alliance for Democracy, Democrat Party and the People's Network for Elections in Thailand (P-Net)have criticized the Election Commission (EC)'s decision to change the position of polling booths as it did not provide for secrecy, allowing others to know what was on the ballot sheet. The Nation also stated “a group of legal experts will file a complaint with the United Nations, asserting that the new set-up of the booths was a human-rights violation.”

Whether or not the monarchy will step in is unanswered. Privy Councillor General Surayud Chulanont has called for an end to the political manipulation of the monarchy. “Because of the deep bond between the monarch and the people, it comes as no surprise that relevant parties often portray themselves as loyal to the monarchy but it is deemed inappropriate if they try to involve the King in politicking,” the Nation reported. 

Sources: 

Terror attacks mar southern vote (Bangkok Post, 3 April 2006)

Thaksin mulls future (Bangkok Post, 3 April 2006)

ELECTION UPDATE (Bangkok Post, 3 April 2006)

Positioning 'breaches secrecy rights of electorate" (Bangkok Post, 3 April 2006) 

Vote was a 'warning': Abhisit (Bangkok Post, 3 April 2006) 

No vote" worries Thai Rak Thai (The Nation, 3 April 2006) 

Thaksin 'willing to stand aside as premier' (The Nation, 3 April 2006) 

PAD wants election annulled (The Nation, 3 April 2006