The Election Commission of Thailand (ECT) held a press conference on 22 December to announce that only 62 percent of eligible voters had participated in the provincial elections, falling short of the target of 80 percent.
ECT Secretary-General Pol Col Charungwit Phumma told the press that 29,016,536 of 46,610,759 eligible voters cast their votes on 20 December. He still cannot confirm whether the sparse voter turnout was due to the Covid-19 outbreak.
However, Charungwit said that the provincial elections were held between a long weekend and the upcoming New Year holidays. Voters might have travelled or returned home to visit their families, which might have affected the decision to vote.
In September, the cabinet announced holidays on 19-22 November and 10-13 December to compensate for the cancellation of the Songkran festival due to the spread of Covid-19. The provincial elections were held on Sunday (20 December) without any provision for early voting or voting-by-mail.
Ahead of the provincial elections, the ECT announced that eligible voters who could not go to vote on election day must submit documents by 27 December to explain their inability to vote. Otherwise, they will lose the right to vote and to stand as a candidate in local elections for 2 years.
Charungwit said that a lot of people used the 1444 hotline to enquire about the procedure for document submission. He is still waiting for the final number of document submissions to see why voter turnout did not meet the target.
The ECT has not released the official returns yet, claiming that they are still verifying the results. However, Charungwit said that the ECT has observed 149 complaints and 7 allegedly illegal acts. They have accepted 68 out of the 156 for investigation.
All ECT commissioners were appointed in 2018 by the King on the advice of the 250 unelected senators handpicked by the military junta before they launched a questionable election in 2019. The ECT’s seven-year term will expire in 2025.