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2019 Thai general election

General elections are scheduled in Thailand on Sunday, 24 March 2019. The date was set by the Election Commission on Wednesday 23 January 2019, only hours after a royal decree was issued authorising the poll. Voting will take place under a military-backed charter, ending one of the longest periods of rule by a military junta in Thailand’s modern history.[1]

2019 Thai general election

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All 500 seats in the House of Representatives
251 seats needed for a majority
  Prayut Chan-o-cha (cropped) 2016.jpg Sudarat Keyuraphan (cropped).jpg
Candidate Prayut Chan-o-cha
(Independent)
Sudarat Keyuraphan
Party Phalang Pracharat Pheu Thai
Last election New party 265 seats; 48.41%
Opinion polls
15 Feb 2019[1] 9% 24%

  Abhisit Vejjajiva 2009 official.jpg Thanathorn J. cropped.jpg
Candidate Abhisit Vejjajiva Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit
Party Democrat Future Forward
Last election 159 seats; 35.15% New party
Opinion polls
15 Feb 2019[2] 14% 11%

Incumbent Prime Minister

Prayut Chan-o-cha
National Council for Peace and Order



Earlier, the Bangkok Post had predicted that the likelihood of elections being held in November 2018, the date previously promised, was "increasingly remote".[2] Civil rights, including the right to vote, were suspended indefinitely following the military coup in May 2014.[3]

The military government in 2014 promised to hold elections in 2015, but later postponed them. Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha told the United Nation's General Assembly in September 2016 that elections would be held by late–2017. Then, during a 2017 visit to the White House, Prayut promised elections in 2018. In October 2017, he promised elections for November 2018.[4][5] However, in January 2018, the enforcement of a bill governing the election of MPs was postponed by the National Legislative Assembly for 90 days, which delays elections until February–March 2019.[2] The bill is one of four needed to hold a general election. The constitution mandates that elections be held within 150 days after all necessary electoral laws take effect. Delayed enforcement of any of the laws pushes back the election.[6]

According to The Standard, the government has postponed elections at least five times over the past five years.[7] The latest given date for elections is sometime in March.[8]

The NCPO's frequent delays of a general election prompted a Bangkok Post writer to observe that, "...[the regime is] up to what everyone had figured out a year or more ago—perpetual rule with Gen Prayut at the head of it all."[9]

Contents

BackgroundEdit

Early general elections were held on 2 February 2014 after Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra asked King Bhumibol Adulyadej to dissolve parliament more than a year early due to a political crisis. The leaders of the anti-government protests objected to the polls, instead demanding that there be "reform before elections" and the Yingluck government be replaced with a royally-appointed "reform council".[10] The elections were thus boycotted by the main opposition party, the Democrat Party, and disruption by protesters meant that voting in some constituencies had to be delayed until a later date, while absentee voters in urban areas were unable to vote.[11]

In April 2014 the Constitutional Court ruled that the election was unconstitutional because the vote had not taken place on the same day nationwide.[12] Following an agreement between the Election Commission and Yingluck's government, the fresh elections were set for 20 July.[12] However, the elections were cancelled after a coup d'état in May deposed the elected government and installed a military government known as the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), led by General Prayut Chan-o-cha, then-Commander in Chief of the Royal Thai Army. The NCPO, on taking power, declared its intention to hold general elections after carrying out reforms and promulgating a new constitution.[13][14]

After the coup, protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban admitted that he had been in talks with Prayut for years about a possible coup.[15]

DelaysEdit

The date of the 2019 Thai general election had been subject to much speculation, given the uncertainty of Prayut and the junta since taking power in the May 2014 coup.

Shortly after the 2014 coup, Prayut said that elections would likely be held "by the end of 2015". By late–2014, however, several government officials had said publicly that elections would not be held until 2016, around mid-year.[16]

In May 2015, Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said that elections would now be held "around August or in September" 2016, after the government announced its intention to hold a referendum on its draft constitution, which would likely be held sometime in early–2016.[17]

In June 2015, Prayut said that he was willing to stay in office for another two years if people "wanted him to", following a push by the National Reform Council (NRC), a government body established by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), to hold a vote on whether or not the government's reforms should be completed before elections were held. This would mean general elections might potentially not be held until early–2018, but a few days later distanced himself from the NRC's initiative after facing backlash for his remarks, saying "I'm not interested. It's all about the roadmap. Stop asking me [about the matter]."[18] This, however, left the door open to the "completion of the reforms" under another government that would also see elections further postponed, if the NRC's initiative succeeded.

In October 2017, Prime Minister Prayut pledged that a general election would be held sometime in November 2018. However, the selection of an election date gave way to rumours that Prime Minister Prayut would attempt to stay in power after the next election through a military-backed political party. While this was the case, in January 2018 Thailand's parliamentary body voted to postpone enforcement of a new election law by 90 days, further dragging out the timing of an election. At the time, the deputy prime minister said the parliament's decision could delay the election until February–March 2019.[19]

On 3 January 2019, Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam told that the election will be delayed citing the royal coronation ceremony as the cause of the delay. In response, former EC commissioner, Somchai Srisutthiyakorn, said the coronation doesn't affect the election and the previously promised February 24 date is still possible.[20]

Although the election date has to be set by the Election Commission, they cannot do so until the government issues a royal decree formally announcing the election. The government did not issue a royal decree on January 3 as previously planned and has declined to say when they will do so.[21]

On 10 January, the Bangkok Post reported that the 24 February date for the election is no longer possible because the government has not published a royal decree and the EC would need at least 45 days to prepare the election.[21] The following day, Wissanu Krea-ngam announced that the royal decree will be released sometime in January, paving way for an election "no later than March."[8]

New electoral systemEdit

Since the previous election in 2014, there have been notable changes made to the Thai electoral system.

The new constitution changes the way votes are cast for the House of Representatives, Thailand's lower house. Previously, voters cast two different ballots: one for constituency seats and the other for party list seats. For the next election, the number of ballots has been reduced to one; with the vote being cast for both constituency and party list seats.[22]

Under the new constitution, all 250 members of the Senate, Thailand's upper house, will be appointed by the NCPO and be able to select the next prime minister.

Commentators say that the NCPO-appointed Senate opens up the strong possibility that Prayut will become Thailand's next prime minister despite pro-Prayut parties being predicted to win fewer seats in the House of Representatives.[23]

With the assumption that all 250 senators will support Prayut, pro-Prayut parties would only need to win 126 seats for him to be selected as prime minister. However, commentators predict that it would be unlikely that Phalang Pracharat and other pro-junta would win a combined 126 seats and would need the support of the Democrat Party.

Constituency boundary controversyEdit

Under the 2017 constitution, House of Representatives constituency districts were reduced from 400 to 350 districts.[24] In 2018, the Election Commission (EC) was tasked with drawing new district boundaries. However, as the EC were about to announce the new boundaries, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha invoked Section 44 to issue an order pushing back the deadline and delaying the announcement. The order also exempts the EC from existing districting laws, allowing them to draw constituency boundaries in any manner they wish.

This has sparked outrage from the Pheu Thai and Democrat parties, as well as from watchdog organization, Open Forum for Democracy Foundation.[25] They argue the delay's purpose is to enable the EC to draw maps that favor pro-junta parties, namely Phalang Pracharat Party. Some journalists and commentators have compared this to gerrymandering in the United States, while others opined that the junta has already won the election.[26][23][27]

Election Commission chairman, Ittiporn Boonpracong, denied the allegations, citing his eye surgery as the cause of the delay.[28]

On November 29, the EC completed and released the new district constituencies.[29] Following the release, political parties and watchdog organizations stated that they found many instances of gerrymandering that would benefit the pro-junta Phalang Pracharat Party.[30][31]

Prime ministerial candidatesEdit

Prior to the 2017 Thai Constitution, any elected House of Representative member could be voted upon and selected as prime minister.

Under the new constitution, political parties can name up to three candidates for prime minister prior to the election. These candidates do not have to be members of the House of Representatives or even members of a political party as long as they meet the legal qualifications.

While the candidates are numbered in the formal submission, there is no legal hierarchy to the ordering.

Bhumjaithai Party
candidate

Chart Pattana Party
candidate
Chart Pattana Party
candidate
Chart Pattana Party
candidate
Chartthaipattana Party
candidate
Anuthin Charnweerakul Suwat Liptapanlop Wannarat Channukul Tewan Liptapanlop Kanchana Silpa-archa
Deputy Minister of Public Health
(2001–2005)
Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand
(2005–2006)
Minister of Industry
(2011–2012)
Member of House of Representatives
(2005–2006)
Deputy Minister of Education
(1999–2001)
September 13, 1966 (age September 13, 1966
Bangkok
February 9, 1955 (age 64)
Ratchaburi
March 8, 1949 (age 69)
Nakhon Ratchasima
December 29, 1959 (age 59)
Ratchaburi
February 15, 1960 (age 59)
Suphan Buri

Democrat Party
candidate

Future Forward Party
candidate

Phalang Pracharat Party
candidate

Pheu Thai Party
candidate
Pheu Thai Party
candidate
Abhisit Vejjajiva Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit Prayut Chan-o-cha Sudarat Keyuraphan Chatchart Sitthiphan
Prime Minister of Thailand
(2008–2011)
Vice-President of
the Thai Summit Group (2002–2018)
Prime Minister of Thailand
(2014-present)
Minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives
(2005–2006)
Minister of Transport
(2012–2014)
August 3, 1964 (age 54)
Wallsend, England
November 25, 1978 (age 40)
Bangkok
March 21, 1954 (age 64)
Nakhon Ratchasima
May 1, 1961 (age 57)
Bangkok
May 24, 1966 (age 52)
Bangkok
Pheu Thai Party
candidate
Prachachart Party
candidate
Prachachart Party
candidate
Prachachart Party
candidate
Thai Liberal Party
candidate
Chaikasem Nitisiri Wan Muhamad Noor Matha Tawee Sodsong Nahathai Thewphaingarm Seripisut Temiyavet
Minister of Justice
(2013–2014)
Minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives
(2004–2005)
Secretary-General of the Southern Border Provinces Administrative Center (2011–2014) Vice Spokesman of
the Thai government (2001–2004)
Commissioner-General of
the Royal Thai Police
(2007–2008)
August 26, 1948 (age 70)
Bangkok
August 26, 1948 (age 74)
Yala
September 23, 1959 (age 59)
Angthong
June 24, 1970 (age 48)
Bangkok
September 3, 1948 (age 70)
Nonthaburi

Disqualified CandidateEdit

Thai Raksa Chart Party
candidate
Ubol Ratana Mahidol
Princess Ubol Ratana Rajakanya Sirivadhana Barnavadi
(1998–present)
(Disqualified by the ECT 11 February 2019)
May 1, 1951 (age 67)
Lausanne, Switzerland

Opinion pollingEdit

Preferred political party pollEdit

Date(s)
conducted
Polling organisation/client Sample size Pheu Thai Democrat Phalang Pracharat Future Forward Other Lead
15 Feb 2019 FT Confidential Research[32] 1,000 24% 14% 9% 11% 42% 10%
11 Feb 2019 Rangsit University[33] 8,000 16.90% 18.30% 21.50% 7.40% 35.9% 3.20%
4-7 Feb 2019 NIDA 2,091 36.49% 15.21% 22.57% 8.18% 17.55% 13.92%
2-15 Jan 2019 NIDA 2,500 32.72% 14.92% 24.16% 11.00% 17.20% 8.56%
24 Dec 2018 Rangsit University[34] 8,000 25.38% 22.62% 26.03% 9.80% 16.17% 0.65%
10-22 Dec 2018 Super Poll / YouGov[35] 1,094 38.30% 22.80% 4.70% 24.40% 9.80% 13.90%
24 Nov 2018 Rangsit University[36] 8,000 23.64% 19.01% 26.61% 8.84% 21.90% 2.97%
20-22 Nov 2018 NIDA 1,260 31.75% 16.98% 19.92% 15.63% 15.72% 11.83%
17-18 Sep 2018 NIDA 1,251 28.78% 19.58% 20.62% 15.51% 15.51% 8.16%
17-19 Jul 2018 NIDA 1,257 31.19% 16.47% 21.88% 9.63% 20.83% 9.31%
8-9 May 2018 NIDA 1,250 32.16% 19.20% 25.12% 11.60% 11.92% 7.04%
2 Feb 2014 2014 election Invalidated
3 July 2011 2011 election 32,525,504 48.41% 35.15% N/A N/A 16.44% 13.26%

Note: The Rangsit University poll is often criticized for its alleged bias towards Prayut and Phalang Pracharat. Sangsit Phiriyarangsan, who leads the polling effort, is a staunch public supporter of Prayut's and skeptics accuse him of artificially inflating Prayut and Phalang Pracharat's poll numbers.[37]

After the publication of the December poll, Sangsit announced that he will no longer publish polls under the university's name to protect the institution from criticism.[38] However, in February, Sangsit and Rangsit University released another poll.[33]

Prime Minister candidate pollEdit

Traditionally, political parties support their party leader as the prime minister. However, in this election, multiple parties have declared support for Prayut Chan-o-cha as the next prime minister.[39] Prayut is not an official member of any political party, however, several of his cabinet ministers and advisors are leaders of the Phalang Pracharat Party. Phalang Pracharat is widely acknowledged as the political vehicle for Prayut to return as prime minister in a democratic regime.[40] On February 8, Prayut officially became Phalang Pracharat's candidate for prime minister, although he still remains an independent.

In a December 2018 interview, Satitra Thananithichoti, an academic with expertise in polling and analysis, raised concerns with prime minister candidate polls.[41] He revealed that from the polling data he has seen, a significant number of people said their preferred prime minister candidate was Prayut but also stated that their preferred political party was Pheu Thai, which does not support Prayut. Satitra pointed out that this could explain why Prayut regularly wins PM polls while Phalang Pracharat often loses in party polls.

Date(s)
conducted
Polling organisation/client Sample size Prayut Sudarat Abhisit Thanathorn Other Lead
4-7 Feb 2019 NIDA 2,091 26.06% 24.01% 11.43% 5.98% 32.52% 6.46%
2-15 Jan 2019 NIDA 2,500 26.20% 22.40% 11.56% 9.60% 30.24% 4.04%
24 Dec 2018 Rangsit University[34] 8,000 26.04% 25.28% 22.68% 9.90% 16.10% 0.76%
24 Nov 2018 Rangsit University[36] 8,000 27.06% 18.16% 15.55% 9.68% 29.55% 2.49%
20-22 Nov 2018 NIDA 1,260 24.05% 25.16% 11.67% 14.52% 24.60% 1.11%
17-18 Sep 2018 NIDA 1,251 29.66% 17.51% 10.71% 13.83% 28.29% 1.37%
17-19 Jul 2018 NIDA 1,257 31.26% 14.96% 10.50% 7.48% 35.80% 4.54%
8-9 May 2018 NIDA 1,250 32.24% 17.44% 14.24% 10.08% 18.08% 14.80%

ReferencesEdit

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  37. ^ News, Workpoint. ""สังศิต" ประกาศยุติทำรังสิตโพลล์ หลังผล "ประยุทธ์" นำถูกหาว่าไม่เป็นกลาง". Workpoint News (in Thai). Retrieved 2019-02-19.
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  40. ^ Limited, Bangkok Post Public Company. "PM allows ministers to back parties". https://www.bangkokpost.com. Retrieved 2019-01-08. External link in |website= (help)
  41. ^ Ltd.Thailand, VOICE TV. "Voice TV 21". VoiceTV (in Thai). Retrieved 2019-01-08.