Thailand referendum: Voters say ‘yes’ to draft charter
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Thailand referendum: Voters say ‘yes’ to draft charter

THE votes are in: according to unofficial results, Thailand has voted to accept the draft constitution.

Elections Commission (EC) officials said 61.45 percent voted in favor of the military government-backed constitution, while only 38.55 percent voted against after counting 94 percent of all ballots casted.

As for the second question posed on the ballot, which asked voters whether they agreed with allowing a junta-appointed senate to jointly vote with the House of Representatives to choose the Prime Minister, around 58 percent said ‘yes’ as well.

The country’s over 95,000 polling stations opened at 8am, and closed at 4pm. Though the EC predicted a turnout as high as 70 percent, this referendum reported a turnout even lower than the 2007 charter referendum, with only 55 percent out of 50.5 million eligible voters going to the polls compared to 2007’s 57.6 percent.

Just two hours into vote counting, it was becoming increasingly clear that the junta-supported draft charter was likely to pass, as predicted by political experts should there be a low voter turnout.

By around 6pm, roughly 66 percent of votes cast had been counted, with unofficial returns holding the ‘Yes’ vote at 62 percent, or 9 million people voting in favor of the charter, while 5.5 million voted against, reported Khaosod English.

The United Nations and the Asian Network on Free Elections (ANFREL) sent unofficial observers to view the polling process.

ANFREL’s executive director, Ichal Supriadi, said that the polls went relatively smoothly and polling staff were professional.

Here’s what happened throughout the day:

There were numerous cases of voters tearing up their ballot sheet at polling stations across the country, including Bangkok – some were as a form of political protest, while others were due to ignorance in the voting process.

Political activist Piyarat Chongthep was arrested after ripped his ballot in half, shouting: “Down with Dictatorship, Long Live Democracy!”

In a statement published on news portal Prachatai, Piyarat said that the draft charter would destroy the principles and rule of law “to such a degree that it will be difficult to find a solution” and “lacks security for the liberty and freedom of the Thai people”.

Election Commission (EC) chairman Supachai Somcharoen said those who purposely tore up their ballot for political reasons would be dealt with accordingly, reported the Nation.

The crime is punishable by up to one year in prison and a fine of up to 20,000 baht (US$570).

Several elderly folk were also arrested after they mistakenly tore their ballots, misunderstanding instructions given by polling station staff.

There was high voter turnout at military polling stations. Local media reported that many had turned up on instruction from their superiors, but admitted that they were not to clear on details regarding the draft charter.

Many also said they did not fully understand the second question posed on the ballot, which asks whether voters agreed with allowing senators to join the elected House of Representatives in selecting a prime minister. Experts have warned that this may allow the military to install a non-elected premier of its choice.

On social media, Thai voters were allowed to post photos of their inked thumbs proving they had exercised their democratic right.

While many pro-democracy activists accepted the result, they said it was due to the junta’s clampdown on open discussion or debate regarding the draft charter prior to the referendum, as well as the arrests of those who spoke against it.

Leader of the Red Shirts, Weng Tojirakarn, told Khaosod English: “[Though] the Vote Yes won without rigging, it is a result of unfairness in space for presenting different views on the charter draft, thus ensuring there exist[ed] lopsided information and arrests of [Vote No] campaigners.”

There was also a high volume of spoiled votes, coming up to more than 830,000.