First election in seven years expected to see higher-than-usual turnout; Sudarat, Chatchart confirmed as Pheu Thai’s candidates for PM.
THE WEBSITE for early-voting registration crashed yesterday morning after a huge number of voters rushed to secure their balloting rights, leading to speculation that the upcoming election could see a high turnout.
The March 24 poll will be the country’s first general election in seven years.
The online registration opened after midnight on the website of the Department of Public Administration (DOPA). But the website went down in the morning after too many voters tried to access the site at the same time.
According to Election Commission (EC) deputy secretary-general Nat Laosisavakul, the crash was due to a large number of people entering the website. The failure, in particular, affected those registering for overseas voting, Nat said.
However, the issue was resolved soon after and yesterday, from 8.30 to 9am, at least 1,000 voters had successfully registered to vote early outside their home constituencies, he added.
The registration is also available offline via DOPA offices or Thai embassies until February 19, he said. But the EC has recommended online registration as the most convenient channel, he added. The deputy secretary-general said the agency expected the total number of those registering to exceed 2 million. It could be due to the new electoral system that makes every vote count, he said.
Under the Mixed-Member Apportionment (MMA) system, each vote goes to both the constituency candidate and the party. Even when the candidate loses, the party would still get the vote, which could be useful in gaining party-list MPs.
According to data provided by the EC website, in 2011 and 2007, 3 million and 2.3 million people respectively registered to vote early.
Early voting this year will take place from March 4 to 17 while the general election has been set for March 24.
Political scientists saw the crash of the website yesterday as a demonstration of voter enthusiasm and speculated that the turnout of voters might be high this year.
Sukhum Nualsakul, former rector of Ramkhamhaeng University, said yesterday that the enthusiasm could be due to people not being able to vote for many years.
“It’s been seven years since the last successful election. That’s almost two terms. People must be so frustrated,” he said. “It’s such a long time since they voted. So, they would want to express their political views through the ballot in this general election.”
Sukhum also said the election has been a hot topic in the last couple of years, hence people would be enthusiastic to exercise their rights.
Starved of elections
Another political scientist Attasit Pankaew, from Thammasat University, said that it was a good sign that the registration website had crashed.
“The website going down means that at some point, more people tried to access it than the system could take,” he said. “This is a very positive thing. The fact that they tried to register on the very first day shows that the voters are indeed very alert.”
The expert said that the country’s failure to hold any general election in the past years could have contributed to the enthusiasm. Regardless, this clearly reflects that voters are eager to participate in politics, Attasit said.
Meanwhile, political parties are humming with activity now that the election date has been announced.
Pheu Thai Party’s senior figure, Phumtham Wechayachai, said yesterday that the party’s members had already agreed on two PM candidates: its core leader Khunying Sudarat Keyuraphan and popular figure Chatchart Sittipan. The party would submit three names, the most number allowed by the law, but had yet to finalise the third candidate, he said.
The party was also working on finalising its list of MP candidates and expected the final decision to be made this week, according to Phumtham.
Meanwhile, Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva revealed yesterday that the party was considering a candidates list for 150 constituencies as well as the PM candidate. The names were expected to be finalised by February 1, he said.
The Democrat leader declined to comment on arch rival Pheu Thai’s choice of PM candidates, saying that no matter who were on the list, there would be a competition.