Thailand conducted a “peaceful” election yesterday amid worsening political tension in the country. Let us first review some essential numbers:
Thailand has 48 million eligible voters out of a population of 65 million. According to the Election Commission, voting took place in 89 percent of 93,952 polling stations nationwide. But the election body cancelled the voting in nine of 14 provinces in the south part of the country where the opposition support base is located. Voting in 42 out of 333 districts was also suspended.
Because of the opposition-led boycott campaign, there are 28 constituencies with no candidates. The opposition has boycotted the elections as it demands the establishment of an unelected People’s Council to resolve the country’s political crisis.
In Bangkok, 488 polling units in five districts were closed because of anti-government protests. More than 2,000 irate and frustrated voters who were unable to vote went to the police to file complaints. The Bangkok Metropolitan Authority announced that voter turnout in the city is only 26.18 percent.
Disenfranchised voters across the country are estimated at 12 million.
Only 27 percent, or 38,350 out of 143,807 registered overseas Thais were able to cast their votes.
No election results were announced and official proclamation is expected after February 23 when by-elections are finished.
Yesterday’s election numbers can be used by both the ruling party and the opposition to bolster their respective political agenda. The ruling party can assert that the majority of Thai voters have opted to end the crisis by voting. But the opposition can argue too that the ruling party cannot govern properly and legitimately since many constituencies and districts didn’t conduct elections.
What is clear is that a political stalemate still exists despite the elections. After successfully blocking and disrupting hundreds of voting centers, anti-government protesters are now gearing for more street actions. They seemed really determined to force the ouster of the caretaker government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra; and to dismantle the political machinery of Thaksin, Yingluck’s elder brother and Thailand’s deposed leader.
But Yingluck can lean on her broader constituency for support. She can mobilize concerned citizens and the disenfranchised voters to protect the electoral system. She can ask the global community to immediately recognize the victory of her party and her right to remain in power.
It is expected that legal issues will be raised in the next few days in relation to the recent elections. Pro-election forces will probably demand the holding of special elections in areas where voting was cancelled. The protesters, on the other hand, could become more aggressive as they seek to force the resignation of Yingluck.
The real “Bangkok Shutdown” might get a boost this month. But since Bangkok is still under a state of emergency, we could expect more clashes between the police and protesters. In other words, the post-election scenario is bleak as far as bringing political stability back to Thailand goes.