How to interpret the ‘no vote’ in the Thai election?
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How to interpret the ‘no vote’ in the Thai election?

The ballot paper in Thailand for the constituency and the party vote includes the option for a ‘no vote’ (kind of like ‘none of the above’). Voting is compulsory and you will lose some political rights if you don’t vote, hence the ‘no vote’ option provides an option for people who don’t like any of the candidates or parties, but do not want to spoil their ballot.

In the 2006 general election, the ‘no vote’ was the main opposition vote against the pro-Thaksin Thai Rak Thai party as the then opposition parties, ie Democrats and Chart Thai, boycotted the election. For the July 3 election, PAD has basically split from its political party, New Politics Party (NAP) and is campaigning for the ‘no vote’ (Or ‘vote no’) in conjunction with another affiliated political party, For Heaven and Earth Party.


Office workers vote posters for the 'no vote' campaign in downtown Bangkok. Pic: AP.

VOA from earlier this month:

Hundreds of members of the People’s Alliance for Democracy, known as the Yellow Shirts, marched Friday through Bangkok’s financial district for their unique campaign encouraging Thai people not to vote in the July nationwide election [BP: Actually, they are not encouraging people not to vote, but they are encouraging people to vote the ‘no vote’ option].

The PAD supporters say politicians running for a July 3 election are power hungry and corrupt and should not be allowed to govern.

The protesters rode in the back of pick-up trucks holding mock campaign signs and flyers depicting politicians as animals.

Krich Thepbamrung is a Yellow Shirt supporter who says if enough people refuse to vote then authorities will be forced to address systemic corruption.

Yes, we want to choose the leader but it means everything must change first,” he says. “[We] must change the politics system first. [It does] not mean from democrat [democracy] to be communist to be other thing – no. We also, we like democracy. We want a democracy. But, it’s not mean democracy by vote one time then they hold the power, corruption and corruption. There is a history from so long times ago until today.”

BP: The ‘vote no’ option is part of the PAD view that the current political system in Thailand is corrupt and needs to be cleansed of dirty things and this includes Thailand being shut off/closed down for 3-5 years (understand this means a 3-5 year period of some national government).

The EC and other government agencies have stated they will remove the ‘vote no’ election posters, but this has not happened – BP still sees them up everywhere they used to be and while a couple may have been removed at least most haven’t been. See this blog post for a good description and photo examples of the ‘vote no’ posters depicting politicians as animals. There are many ways people can express political speech. BP thinks letting people insult all politicians (and not singling out individuals) and letting off steam is better than closing down airports or occupying intersections for months on end, no?

On the percentage of the ‘no vote’ , TANN has more:

Director of the Economic and Business Research Center at the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce Thanawat Polwichai said if vote no ballots account for more than 10 percent of the election’s total result, a group of people outside Parliament will come out to make their voices heard, which could post a threat to political stability.

Thanawat then said if the ‘vote no’ outcome exceeds 20 percent, it will represent the people’s demand for political change, which politicians will have to consider.

He went on to say if the vote no ballots are less than 5 percent, it will mean the campaign is only to meet the demand of some small group.

BP: What about the 5-10% range???

For the 2007 general election, for the party vote 2.85% of voters nationwide chose the ‘no vote’ option (4.11% in Bangkok); for the constituency vote it was 4.58% of voters nationwide chose the ‘no vote’ option (6.42% in Bangkok; 9.04% in Nonthaburi, 9.90% in Phuket which was the highest). Hence, the 5-10% range is more likely. To have any traction, PAD need to add 5% to the the ‘no vote’ option at the last election so 7.85% for the party vote and 9.16% for the constituency vote.

BP would take a guess that the PAD goal is more than 10% for the constituency vote as that will be a symbolic milestone. Although, one should not take it to mean 10% of the population agree with the PAD given 4.58% chose the ‘no option’ in the 2007 general election, but getting double figures would  be a symbolic achievement. It would also mean that PAD have around 5% of the population* on their side is a small, but powerful constituency because in future elections the Democrats are very unlikely to be able to win significant support to form a government without PAD support.

*Having said that it is very difficult to state the reason that people have chosen the ‘no vote’ option will be because of the PAD (of course, exit poll data could provide more details). A person could simply have become bored of politics over the last few years and not like any of the candidates, but not support the PAD. Then again this is the advantage of the PAD piggy-backing on the ‘vote no’ option as opposed to telling their supporters to vote for the New Politics Party because you can argue that the final figure ‘no vote’ is your support base …

BP sees it as very unlikely that nationwide the ‘no vote’ option will reach 10% for the party vote. If it did then PAD would have done very well – and the Democrats would have lost in a landslide.

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