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Election group applauds 'admirable' Thai voters

THE ASIAN Network for Free Elections (Anfrel), an independent pan-Asian election observers' group, praised voters who committed themselves to the democratic process by going to polling stations on Sunday and during the advance voting day on January 26.

"Voters with diverse views, including those voting for parties as well as those exercising their right to cast a 'no vote', should be complimented for engaging in such a core part of the democratic process.

These voters going to polls, despite the possibility of being blocked, showed that they placed value on the process itself and the rights they had as a part of that process. Indeed, many voters Anfrel spoke with expressed an admirable desire to 'use their right' by coming out to vote."

In the same statement, Anfrel chairman Damaso Magbual from the Philippines warned that political parties that appeared hostile to elections and willing to disregard the choices that some voters made were undermining both their long-term democratic goals and their electoral popularity.

"This makes the current opposition to elections actually counterproductive to the long-term goals of the protesters. Indeed, it is only by all parties re-committing to democratic processes such as elections and referendums that a way forward for inclusive reform and a sustainable peace can be found."

On the blocking of the voting by the anti-government People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC), Anfrel said that while freedom of assembly remained a deeply held value in democratic societies, "those rights cease the moment they impede on citizens' equally important rights".

Anfrel also condemned election-related violence in all its forms and called for speedy, impartial investigations into the clash between rival camps at Lak Si intersection the day before the election. It also urged all parties to re-commit themselves to dialogue and a more peaceful means of conflict resolution.


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