Thai election ranks 88th in the world, 2nd in ASEAN

Despite good electoral laws, Thailand’s 2014 election failed due to deeply partisan politics and the failures of the Election Commission, according to research which ranks Thailand’s election 88th of 127 elections held in 107 countries in 2012-2014.

The Electoral Integrity Project (EIP), a joint worldwide research project conducted by various universities, mainly in Australia, reports in the The Year in Elections, 2014 that Thailand’s failed election on 2 February 2014 scored especially poorly in terms of electoral procedures, the announcement of results and the performance of the Election Commission of Thailand (EC).

The only elections in the Association of the Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) which surpass Thailand’s are the Indonesian presidential and legislative elections of September last year, which ranked 51st and 82nd respectively. Lower-ranking ASEAN elections were the Philippines, Malaysian, and Cambodian legislative elections. 

The report stated that although Thailand’s election scored 80 (out of 100) in electoral law, surpassing some of the western democracies, it scored only 54 in electoral procedures, 47 in the announcement of results, and 47 in the performance of its election commission.

The report points out that this is partly due to the failure of the EC to uphold international electoral standards and to counter the attempts of the anti-election group, the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC), to void the election.

Moreover, the EC never announced the complete election results, but only partial information that the turnout was about 47 per cent, which was cited by the EC to be lower than usual, and that large numbers of ballot papers could not be counted.

The report debunks a number of myths Propagated about Thai elections.  One comment by a researcher notes ‘Elections remain deeply controversial in Thailand. Despite the proliferation of party bans, institutional engineering, and the politicization of courts, popular sentiment seems strongly in favour of electoral democracy, as election results and turnout since 2001 have shown. Yet, there is a non-negligible and politically powerful minority that rejects elections outright. This coalition argues that politicians are corrupt, and voters easily bought and too ignorant to be able to distinguish between good and bad politicians. While making reference to the concept of electoral integrity, this discourse seems not to match well with the evidence collected through the PEI experts’ evaluations. The results of the PEI survey suggest that elections in Thailand are by and large well-administered in the technical aspects. Election fraud, vote buying or other forms of manipulation seem to be less problematic and on par with other countries in the region.’

“Thailand illustrates problems when elections are derailed by partisan rancour and street violence, catalyzing a military coup suspending the government and prospects for democratic stability,” the report says.

The research added “It [Thailand’s election] ranked 88th out of all contests, not least due to the violent disruption campaign of the opposition People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) and the subsequent disenfranchisement of millions of voters. Full results of the vote count were not released by the Election Commission of Thailand, and only partial information was provided about a lower-than-usual turnout of 47% and a higher number of spoilt ballots,” the report states.