Exiled Former PM Slams Military for Rigging Thai Election
“This is even worse, because if we in Thailand have…a government that comes from a rigged election, the international (community) will not respect it.”
Former Thailand Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra accused the country’s military junta of rigging Sunday’s election and delaying the official results to keep General Prayuth Chan-ho-cha in power.
On Sunday, March 24, Thailand held its first election since a coup in 2014 removed Thaksin Shinawatra’s sister Yingluck Shinawatra from office. The preliminary poll result showed that the ruling pro-military and conservative Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) won around 94 percent of the votes.
Thaksin, who ruled from 2001 to 2006, said that Thais and international communities are watching the election, and everyone knew the irregularity of the ballot’s result. “No, no. You know, in any games, if the rules of the games, the referee are not fair, then the results will not be respected. This is even worse, because if we in Thailand have…a government that comes from a rigged election, the international (community) will not respect it,” Thaksin responded when asked about the fairness of the Sunday poll.
The Delay Benefits the Thai Junta
One election watchdog agency said the situation and the commission’s decision to delay announcing the result could help the ruling party. Amael Vier, the Asian Network for Free Elections (which is funded by the U.S.) representative, stated that many people did not trust the vote counting process.
Thaksin, who is still an influential figure in Thailand despite being exiled in Hong Kong, claimed vote rigging was evident as the number of paper ballots tallied was higher than the actual turnout, which only reached 66 percent according to the Election Commission of Thailand (ECT). In some provinces, Thaksin added that the military-backed party surprisingly jumped from the third polling position to first in poll results. The billionaire also cited alleged vote-buying activities in front of the poll station, and accused the election commission of changing the ballot box while accompanied by the police in Phetchabun province.
The Thai government claimed there were inconsistencies between the number of ballots and turnout because of human error. The ECT promised to deliver more information but has not yet announced the official results due to the confusion and potential irregularities. The commission’s decision to delay the poll results also sparked criticism. When ECT head Ittiporn Boonprakong was asked when the election results would be announced, he only answered he had no calculator with him.
“That is very, very sarcastic from the chairman of the ECT. I don’t know, there might be someone who ordered him to stop. This is a lot of evidence of a rigged election,” Thaksin added.
Pro-Thaksin Party Controls the Thai Parliament
The opposition and pro-Thaskin party Pheu Thai claimed it controlled the majority of the parliament’s seats. The party, which gains support from the rural and urban poor, said it is ready to form a coalition government.
According to the latest update from the election commission, Pheu Thai won 138 seats, followed by PPRP (96) and the newly established Future Forward (30). However, previously, the ECT stated there were 1.9 million invalid votes in the parliamentary election and many seats are still undetermined. As many as 150 other seats in the lower assembly will be allocated to smaller parties based on the number of votes they gained.
One of the most likely coalition partners chosen by the Pheu Thai is the Future Forward Party led by businessman Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit. The pro-marijuana Bhumjaithai Party will play a vital role in determining the fate of PPRP and Pheu Thai since both are trying to persuade the Bhumjaithai Party to form a coalition government.
Thailand’s History of Military Coups
Thailand has a long history of military coups; there have been 11 coups since 1932. The military toppled Thaksin himself in September 2006 during his second term. At that time the military revoked the constitution and dismissed the government. Thaksin, who was attending an event in New York, soon declared a state of emergency in Bangkok.
Just eight years later, a coup in May 2014 toppled Yingluck and drew international condemnation. Washington canceled a joint military program just a few days after the transfer of power. But the junta claimed it gained support from Vietnam and China.
The bloodiest coup, perhaps, was in 1932 and ended an absolute monarchy in the country. The succession was known as the Siam Revolution when military members known as the “Four Musketeers” overthrew King Prajadhipok. The coup also marked the beginning era of a constitutional monarchy.