EC in the firing line over advance voting blunders
Voters and candidates asked the Election Commission (EC) to take responsibility for poor preparations that led to mistakes, confusion and inconvenience to advance voters abroad last week even as the country braces for millions of early votes expected to be cast in the Kingdom this Sunday.
Prior to the March 24 general election, Thailand is holding advance voting in the Kingdom on Sunday, while overseas voting is scheduled from March 4-17.
Parit Wacharasindhu, a Democrat Party candidate in Bangkok’s constituency 13, yesterday said a printed document distributed to voters in London, showing the names of candidates, was flawed and left the voters confused
As an instance, Parit pointed out that information about him – his photo, name, number and his party name – were not on the same page.
The candidates’ name-list distributed to voters that caused confusion.
“I’m not the only one; even candidates from other parties are affected. It could lead to confusion among voters or they may pick the wrong number for their chosen candidate,” Parit posted on his Facebook wall.
A similar problem was encountered by Future Forward Party candidate Nittcha Boonlue, a candidate in the same constituency as Parit. She posted on her Facebook that the party name above her photo was misleading and could have led voters to misunderstand that she was a candidate of that party.
Niphatphon Suwanchana, a candidate in Bangkok’s constituency 16 from the Seri Ruam Thai Party, yesterday filed a complaint with the EC, seeking corrections to the document.
He said a voter had asked him which party he represented, as the document showed him representing the New Phalang Dhamma Party.
“The mistake would affect the results of my party. I want to know how the EC would take responsibility for these shortcomings, as advance voting is going to be held in Thailand on Sunday,” he said.
In response to the complaints, the EC yesterday held an urgent meeting and ordered an investigation into the misleading information in the candidate name-list document. It urged voters to download the “Smart Vote” application to check information about candidates.
In Kuala Lumpur, reports said around 4,000 Thai voters formed a long queue in front of the Thai embassy as they registered to cast their ballots on Saturday. But their enthusiasm to vote was overshadowed by a photo circulated in social media of a cardboard box being erected to serve as polling booth.
Netizens questioned the legality of using a cardboard box and criticised the poor preparation by the authorities.
EC secretary-general Jarungvith Phumma defended the move, saying using a cardboard box as a voting booth may not look good, but it was not illegal. The boxes were used to create additional voting booths to accommodate more voters, he added.
To accommodate the thousands of overseas Thai voters, the Thai embassy in Kuala Lumpur extended the time to cast ballots from 5pm to 9.30pm and until the last registered voter had cast their vote, according to Busadee Santipitaks, director-general of the Department of Information.
Meanwhile, Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva yesterday reiterated that he would not support Prayut Chan-o-cha’s return to power as prime minister.
“Our goal is to win the election and become the core party [to form the next government], not a coalition. So, I’m announcing clearly that if I win, I will form a government that is not corrupted and does not cling to power,” he said.
The ex-premier made it clear for the first time that if his party failed to win, they will be the opposition as their stance is to neither join a government led by Pheu Thai nor a party that supports the military retaining power.
Abhisit said that if his party won, he reserved the right to choose their coalition partners.
“I won’t invite Phalang Pracharat to join the coalition unless they deny the perpetuation of power and ensure Prayut will not be involved [in the Cabinet],” he added.
“Because the most likely situation that could create a conflict is the retaining of power, and Prayut is most likely to become the centre of the conflict after the election,” Abhisit added.
However, it would all depend on the poll result, he added.
His announcement on his stance, which he said was also his party’s position, was meant to sincerely inform voters on the scenarios. Abhisit told a press conference with party executives that he was ready to welcome all reactions, positive or negative.
“It is possible that my stance may result in my party losing popularity or votes, but I’m glad that we are being fair to the voters [informing them of our position before they cast their votes],” he added.