The most questionable election in Thai history?

Thailand’s 2019 general election took place yesterday (24 March), and the Election Commission of Thailand (ECT) did not seem to do any better on election day than it did with overseas and advance voting which were plagued with difficulties

Three hashtags about the election took the top three places on Twitter’s Thailand trend as of last night, as voters complained about the ECT’s mismanagement and possible election fraud. Several reports of irregularities started to surface later in the day and continue into the night, from there being more votes than voters in a constituency, to irregularities in the lists of eligible voters, to live reports of the vote count being in serious error.

Prachatai here presents a brief timeline of the election on 24 March 2019.


24 March

8.00

The polls open.

Polling stations in Bangkok, Nonthaburi, and Pathum Thani were monitored by four teams of UN observers. The list of international observers for this election included representatives of foreign embassies and election commissions, and Inter-IDEA. Meanwhile, the EU said they were not participating since the official invitation from the Thai authorities did not come in time.


11:00

Adchara Saravari, a former Thai Raksa Chart candidate in Samut Sakhon, posted on her Facebook page that her picture was still posted on the board in front of the polling station, even though the TRC has already been dissolved. 

Meanwhile, We Watch reported that TRC candidate information was still on display in front of a polling station in Phitsanulok's Constituency 3.

Since the Constitutional Court has already ruled to dissolve the TRC, any vote for the party will be invalid.


13:47 

Thairath TV reported that soldiers voting at polling stations in Samsen Nai were being observed by an officer while in the polling booth.


14:30 

It was reported that the Royal Thai Police Deputy Commissioner Pol Gen Srivara Rangsibrahmanakul was in a video conference with the Metropolitan Police Bureau, Police Division 1 – 9, the Border Patrol Police Bureau, the Immigration Bureau, and the Central Investigation Bureau on election day security plans.

Pol Gen Srivara said that demonstrations are prohibited after the vote counting, because permission is needed to hold a public assembly. “We have prepared a space large enough to detain at least 1000 people. If you want to protest, you have to ask for permission. If we can, we’ll allow it, but if not, then don’t break the rules.”


15:00 

Nath Laoseesawakool, Deputy Secretary-General of the Election Commission of Thailand (ECT) said that some overseas voting ballots had just arrived in Thailand that morning, following a flight delay.

Overseas voting ballots have to be delivered to their respective constituencies by 17.00, when the poll closed and counting begins. The ECT said they cannot reveal which country the ballots were being delivered from and how many there are, but if they are not delivered in time, they will be invalid.

According to the Thai Embassy in Wellington’s press release, 1862 Thai voters registered in New Zealand. 1542 people voted, 82.81% of all registered voters.   


17.00 

The polls close and counting begins.


17.35 

Vote62 reported that in Din Daeng, some early and overseas votes were found to not have been in ECT-specified envelopes but in Thailand Post envelopes. The staff at the Din Daeng polling station said that it was post office staff who delivered the ballots who put them in the wrong envelopes. All of the ballots which arrived in the wrong envelopes are invalid.


17.58 

Thai PBS reported that during the vote count in Bangkok’s Constituency 7, it was found that a ballot for Phalang Pracharat was declared valid despite the cross being marked over the candidate’s number instead of in the correct blank box, but a ballot for the Future Forward Party was declared invalid because the ballot was marked twice despite one cross being in the blank box.


19:15 

Channel 7 reported that almost 20,000 people voted for the now dissolved Thai Raksa Chart (TRC) party - the party associated with Thaksin and had nominated former Princess Ubolratana Madidol as their candidate for Prime Minister.

This might be the result of confusion, since the ECT did not remove TRC from the ballot, and TRC candidates were still included in the list of MP candidates posted in front of polling stations. However, it could also be seen as an attempt to defy the Constitutional Court’s decision to dissolve TRC, but this remains uncertain.


20:40 

 

Nation TV reported that in Bueng Kum, after the Palang Pracharat candidate was declared to have the highest number of votes, the Future Forward candidate requested a re-count. It was then found that there were more ballots than there should be in the constituency.

The Bangkok office of the Election Commission said that it will be investigating the matter. If there are indeed too many ballots, voters in Bueng Kum may have to vote again.

The similar problems also happened in live report in Constituency 3, Surin Province, which the number of actual voters (288,690) exceed the number of eligible voters (196,568), but the culprit might be rather from technical errors of live report. 

 


21:45 

Abhisit Vejjajiva announced his resignation as head of the Democrat Party. 

Abhisit said in a press conference that he would like to thank the people for voting for the Democrat Party, but the results did not turn out as they had hoped. He would like to apologize to their supporters and his colleagues for not being able to lead them to success, and he would like to take responsibility by resigning from his post as head of the party. The remaining party executives will continue to work in his place.

Abhisit said earlier he would not support Prayut, but Phalang Pracharat may join his government if it can satisfy his conditions. So, some speculated that this might be a political move of Democrat Party to join Phalang Pracharat with Prayut Chan-o-cha as the Prime Minister. 


21.27

Itthiporn Boonprakong, the chairman of ECT, reported that 90% of votes have been counted. Out of 51,205,624 eligible voters, the number of voter turnout was 65.96% and 5.6% was invalid. Asked how to calculate the party-list MPs, he said he "has no calculator".


25 March

3:00 

A petition was started on Change.org to impeach the current ECT, now with more than 400k signatures. 


10.01 

Sunai Phasuk, the senior researcher on Thailand in Human Rights Watch’s Asia Division, posted on his Facebook page that True Visions has yet again censor international news media broadcasts. This time, it is Al Jazeera’s Inside Story programme that was cut.


16.24

ECT held a press conference saying that people have wait a little bit longer until 9 May for the official result. According to Khaosod English, ECT's secretary-general Charungvith Phumma said one can file a complaint to ECT if they believe there’s any irregularity.


History Repeated?

So far, the ECT has not announced the official election results, nor have they explained the irregularities. Some people have compared it to the 1957 election, known as “the dirtiest election in history,” which was extremely rigged and ended with the victory of the Seri Manangkasila Party, headed by Field Marshal Plaek Phibunsongkhram. The 1957 election met with protests by students from Chulalongkorn and Thammasat universities. The events later escalated to a conflict between soldiers and police who supported Field Marshal Plaek and those who supported Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat, and eventually led to Sarit’s 16 September 1957 military coup.