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Millions Disenfranchised in Thailand Elections

An elderly woman holds a sign that reads 'Respect My Vote' as she poses with her grandchild who holds a Thai national flag. Photo by Matthew Richards, Copyright @Demotix (1/15/2014)

An elderly woman holds a sign that reads ‘Respect My Vote’ as she poses with her grandchild who holds a Thai national flag. Photo by Matthew Richards, Copyright @Demotix (1/15/2014)

Despite ongoing anti-government rallies and the boycott campaign of the opposition, Thailand was able to conduct a ‘peaceful’ election. But many Thais were unable to vote or prevented from going near polling centers because of protests. According to the election body, voting has been held at 89.2 per cent of polling stations nationwide or in 83,813 out of 93,532 stations.

The number of disenfranchised voters is estimated at 12 million. There are 48 million eligible voters out of the population of about 65 million.

The election took place amid rising political tension in the country. Protesters have been marching in the streets of Bangkok, the country’s capital, for several months already as they demand the resignation of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. Yingluck is accused of being a proxy of her elder brother, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

As protests intensified, Yingluck dissolved the parliament and announced the holding of an election. But the opposition vowed to boycott the election as it called for the creation of a People’s Council. The opposition Democrat Party claimed that a fair and democratic election cannot be achieved as long as the ‘corrupt’ Thaksin family is allowed to participate in the electoral process.

The map below shows the political division in Thailand. The north and northeast parts of the country are mainly supportive of the ruling party while the southern provinces, where most of the blocked poll stations are located, lean in favor of the opposition.

Many voters who were blocked from voting went to the police to file a complaint. In Bangkok alone, 488 polling stations of nearly 7,000 were closed because of protests.

Because of the high number of voting suspensions, election results were not issued and they may have to wait for several weeks until by-elections are held.

Saksith Saiyasombut explains that disenfranchised voters can still cast their votes at a later date:

What will happen next? There’re hundreds of polling station that didn’t open today, those will have to hold elections at a later date. Those who were obstructed in last Sunday’s advance voting can cast their in by-elections on February 23. The 28 constituencies in the South that weren’t able to file a candidate will have to start the process at a later date.

@KhunPleum expresses his disappointment over the election process:

Twitter hashtags #ThaiVote2014 and #vote2014 are useful in monitoring election updates.

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