Electoral problems for 3rd parties in Thailand: What is the future for Bhum Jai Thai?
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Electoral problems for 3rd parties in Thailand: What is the future for Bhum Jai Thai?

A: Introduction: The weakening position of third parties

Historically, Thailand has had a weak party system with the Democrats being the only constant party with other parties coming and going. This changed with Thaksin coming onto the scene with the pro-Thaksin party winning at least 47% of seats in the 2001, 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2011 elections. This has significantly hurt the third parties with them being squeezed by the pro-Thaksin party on one side and the Democrats on the other. The third parties in Thailand have been in trouble for a while as Thailand moves closer to a two-party system. This two-party system also makes it difficult, while the Democrats are so weak, for them to beat Puea Thai.

B. 2007 vs 2011 election comparison for the two major parties vs the third parties

For the party vote, in the 2007 election, the pro-Thaksin PPP won 41.08% and the Democrats won 40.44% for a combined total of 81.52% (or 18.48% for the third parties). Then in the 2011 election the pro-Thaksin PT party won 48.42% and the Democrats 35.15% for a combined total of 83.57% (or 16.43% for the third parties). (NOTE: See this post for specifics)

For the constituency vote, in the 2007 election, the pro-Thaksin PPP won 36.83% of all constituency votes and the Democrats won 30.21% for a combined total of 67.04%. For the 2011 election, the pro-Thaksin PT party won 44.94% and the Democrats won 31.92%. The constituency vote for the third parties dropped significantly from 32.96% to 23.14%. This is where you can really see where the third parties were hurt.  Remember this even includes Bhum Jai Thai defecting from PPP.

In terms of seats, the third parties won 82 seats in the 2007 election and the two major parties won 398 seats. For the 2011 election, the third parties won 80 seats, but the two major parties won 420 seats (the number of seats increased from 480 in 2007 to 500 in 2011).

As demonstrated particularly by the constituency vote (375 out of 500 seats are decided by the constituency vote), the third parties have become even weaker.

C. Analysis of the 2011 election and marginal seats

Below is some analysis from the 2011 election to calculate how many safe and marginal seats they were:

Source: Thanks to Chris Baker for providing the above information. BP has made some slight alterations, but it is Chris’ work and thanks to him for allowing its use in this post.

NOTE: “% margin” should be fairly obvious as it refers to the gap between 1st and 2nd; PT = Puea thai; DP = Democrats: 3rd parties means all other parties.

BP: This post will focus on third parties and Bhum Jai Thai, in particular. However, you can see that for Puea Thai, only 41 out of 204 constituency seats (or 20.1% of all of their constituency seats) was the margin of victory, less than 10%. Certainly, there are possibilities for the Democrats and the 3rd parties to pick up seats from Puea Thai, but there are also possibilities for Puea Thai to pick up seats as well especially from the third parties. The reason as you can also see is that 32 out of 56 (or 57.14% of all of their constituency seats) constituency seats won by 3rd parties are marginal seats (i.e margin of victory is less than 10%). This makes the 3rd parties very vulnerable to losing seats/defections to other parties.

D. Introduction to Bhum Jai Thai

What about for Bhum Jai Thai? They didn’t contest the 2007 election (as they were part of PPP), but after splitting from the Thaksin fold in 2008 they had 32 seats. After the 2011 election, they had 34 MPs (29 constituency and 5 party list MPs). This is a gain, but you have to take into account that they had a lot of money back before the 2011 election so they were able to attract many defectors from other parties. It is difficult to say precisely how many defectors there were as some defected then defected back or even to other parties, but it was said up to 20 MPs (actually there was talk of 30-40 MPs defecting) although by what BP was able to track down it was closer to around 15 MPs from Puea Thai, Puea Paendin, Pracharaj, Chart Thai Pattana etc. who actually defected and then stayed with Bhum Jai Thai.

E. Bhum Jai Thai and the 2011 election

However, as of 2014, things have changed. Puea Thai wouldn’t go into a coalition with Bhum Jai Thai after the 2011 election so Bhum Jai Thai found themselves on the outside and no longer had the same access to money and resources. You can particularly see the problems they are facing from analysis of their results from the 2011 election (this is for the 29 constituency seats that Bhum Jai Thai won and the below list is sorted from the most marginal seat):


Source: From Chris again

NOTE: For “Region”, I = Isan/Esaan and the others should be obvious. “Con No” = Constituency No in the province; “BJT” = % of vote for the winning Bhum Jai Thai candidate; “2nd” = % of vote won by the candidate who placed 2. “Gap votes” = margin of votes from 1st (of BJT) to 2nd and “Gap %” is the same in %. “PT%” is % of vote won by the Puea Thai candidate (where highlighted in yellow is where the Puea Thai candidate came second); “DP %” is % of vote won by the Democrat candidate (where highlighted in yellow is where the Democrat candidate came second). Hence, where neither PT or Dem candidate is highlighted it means a third party candidate came 2nd.

Some comments below:

1. 12 out of the 29 seats the margin of victory was less than 5%; 18 out of the 29 seats the margin of victory was less than 10%.

2. In 11 out of the 18 seats where margin of victory was less than 10%, the Puea Thai candidate came second. Hence, for these 11 MPs candidates, defecting to Puea Thai, there is likely a significant advantage to the former Bhum Jai Thai MP switching to Puea Thai with the combined vote of both being in excess of 70% in each case.

3. In the 7 seats where Puea Thai did not finish second, it is mixed whether it would help the Bhum Jai Thai candidate to switch. For example, in the Pattani constituency, Puea Thai is not popular and it may be a negative being associated with Puea Thai. For others such as Nakhon Nayok and Srisaket, you could see the benefit of joining Puea Thai.

F: Defections before the 2014 election

Ever since Bhum Jai Thai was shut out of coalition in 2011 there has been talk of defections from Bhum Jai Thai to Puea Thai. For example, see this blog post from Bangkok Mango on the possible defection of the Matchima faction under the wing of Somsak Thepsuthin from November 2012. This speculation increased all the time as all the MPs in the Matchima faction voted for the government’s budget for 2013 despite being in opposition.

The other alternative would be instead of picking off factions is a Bhum Jai Thai becoming a possible coalition partner with news of the current bigwig in Bhum Jai Thai Anutin visiting Thaksin last year and Bhum Jai Thai’s desire to return to a pro-Thaksin government fold could be demonstrated by 31 of their MPs voting to support Yingluck in the no-confidence debate in late November 2013 (i.e. even after the amnesty bill problems and mass protests).

Then after the dissolution of parliament on December 9, we saw the first group of defectors. ThaiPBS:

Nine former Bhumjaithai MPs have tendered their resignation from the party believed to join the Pheu Thai party.

The defectors include members of the Matchima faction and veterans of Bhumjai Thai. Among them are former list MP Ruangsak Ngamsompark, former Sukhothai MP Manu Pookprasert, former Chainat MP Nanthana Songpracha, former Ratchaburi MP Manit Nop-amornbodi, former Ratchaburi MP Boonying Nitikanchana, former Sukhothai MP Chakkaval Chaiviratkul, former Nakhon Nayok MP Wutthichai Kittithanetworn, former Nakhon Ratchasima MP Pranom Pokham and former Ratchaburi MP Chavorarat Chinthammit.

BP: Of course, none from those from the Friends of Newin faction…

G: Results from the 2014 election

For Buriram, according to ASTV Manager (other papers just say who won without vote count), Bhum Jai Thai won 5 out of the 9 seats and Puea Thai won the other 4 (compared with Bhum Jai Thai winning 7 in 2011 and Puea Thai 2)

  • Constituency No. 1 : BJT won by 28,344 to 13,440 for PT (In 2011, 32% margin of victory for BJT- it was BJT’s safest seat)
  • Constituency No. 2: BJT won by 32,095 to 21,846 for PT (In 2011, 18.1% margin of victory for BJT)
  • Constituency N0. 3: Puea Thai won by 38,119 to 25,208 – beating former Transport Minister Sophon Zarum – and winning the seat. (In 2011, 13.2% margin of victory for BJT)
  • Constituency No. 4: BJT won by 29,125 to 25,283 for PT (In 2011, 18.1% margin of victory for BJT)
  • Constituency No. 5: BJT won by 25,945 to 19,284 for PT (In 2011, 13.8% margin of victory for BJT)
  • Constituency No. 6: Puea Thai won by 28,848 to 27,917 for BJT (In 2011, PT won by 2.3% over BJT).
  • Constituency No. 7: Puea Thai won by 30,525 to 23,797 for BJT (In 2011, PT won by 16.8% over BJT)
  • Constituency No. 8: Puea Thai won by 23,706 to 14,620 for BJT (In 2011, BJT won by 3.12% over PT)
  • Constituency No. 9: BJT won by 23,035 to 15,037 for PT (In 2011, BJT won by 12.7%)

BP: So PT won Constituency No. 3 overcoming a 13.2% margin in previous election and Constituency No. 8 overcoming a 3.12% margin.

Another province where BP has found multiple sources (ASTV Manager, Naew Na, and PRD) providing the list of the winner of all seats is Nakhon Ratchasima. In 2011, Puea Thai won 8, Chart Pattana 4, and Bhum Jai Thai 3, but this time Puea Thai won 10, Chart Pattana won 4, and Chart Thai Pattana won 1. Bhum Jai Thai lost all 3 seats, namely Constituencies 10, 12, and 15, where the margin of victory was 5.23% or less in 2011. Included in the losers is Boonjong, who is deputy leader of Bhum Jai Thai and former deputy Interior Minister.

BP: Beyond these 2 provinces finding specific results is proving very difficult. BP can only find unofficial results for a handful of provinces. In other constituencies, the only other province where Bhum Jai Thai may have done well and where Democrat votes won’t matter so much is Surin and the result is the same as 2007 (PT with 7 and Bhum Jai Thai with one – margin of victory for that 1 BJT seat was 14.9% in 2011 so not that surprising that they were able to retain).

Am not saying there is anything conclusive as February 2 was not a fully-contested election and we may get different results as it was a stilted campaign. Nevertheless, we only have the data which is available and it is as BP would have expected, namely the signs are not good for Bhum Jai Thai and the limited results we have seen show that they lost at least 5 seats and possibly more, mostly to Puea Thai as well. Hence, even if we were to get an election within the next couple of months and the likelihood is that Puea Thai would lose seats to the Democrats and possibly even to coalition partners particularly in central provinces and the lower North, the vote for Bhum Jai Thai doesn’t seem strong and Puea Thai will be able to limit these losses by picking up seats from Bhum Jai Thai (The Democrats can also pick up seats from Bhum Jai Thai, but the Democrats really need to pick up seats from Puea Thai to win enough seats to form a government)

Also, as another point, it shows a further problem for any faction that leaves the Thaksin fold under such acrimonious circumstances. They are shut out of government (and thus money) and are weakened. BP just raises this as have heard some suggestion of the establishment again being able to convince some MPs to leave Puea Thai in an Appointed Government (have not heard specifics, but it seems a logically poor decision for any UNLESS Thaksin does a deal).

btw, it still seems that Bhum Jai Thai would contest any new election. They also oppose an Appointed PM under Section 7 and want an election before reform.