03/19/2019, 17.20
THAILAND
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Election week opens in Thailand with large turnout in advance polling

On 24 March, parliamentary elections will mark Thailand’s return to a democratic regime, after years of military rule. Irregularities were recorded in advance polling in the provinces of Samut Songkhram, Kalasin and Uthai Thani. The large number of parties might confuse voters. For expert, "The most interesting news is the Phak Anakhot Mai (New Future Party), which brings together young vibrant and prepared people who do not let themselves be influenced by the country’s deep-rooted religious tradition.”

Bangkok (AsiaNews) – Less than a week before the general elections, Thailand’s Electoral Commission (CE) announced a large turnout in advance voting: 86.98 per cent of the 2.6 million eligible voters cast their ballots.

Observers expect a similar result on 24 March. But this could be a challenge for the authorities, and show the inadequacies of the electoral process. For smaller parties, a higher turnout will represent a uphill battle because they will need more votes to win a seat in the lower house of the National Assembly.

This will be the first democratic election since 2011 after almost five years of military rule.

EC chairman Ittiporn Boonpracong said yesterday that in many provinces the turnout in the advance polls topped 90 per cent. Some polling places had to remain open beyond the official closing time of 5 pm, to allow all voters to exercise their right. This was the case in Bang Kapi, a district in Bangkok, where voting went on until 6 pm with some 52,500 people casting their ballot.

Reacting to criticisms and questions on the transparency of early voting, the EC chairman said that they found only three cases of violations.

One case of possible electoral fraud was recorded in Samut Songkhram, central Thailand, where some ballots had been marked before voting started but were eventually destroyed and replaced by unmarked ballots. In the northeastern province of Kalasin, fake documents claimed that some candidates had been disqualified. In the Uthai Thani province (north), some people tried to use the Identity cards of others to vote.

"At present, political confusion prevails," one expert observer told AsiaNews. "There are many parties and it is difficult for people to get their bearings. Two or three parties, however, will be the driving force."

The main parties are Phak Phuea Thai, which is loyal to the still influential Shinawatra family, which has dominated Thai politics for years; the Palang Pracharat, a party whose main candidate is incumbent Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha who heads the pro-military coalition; and finally the democrats of the Prachathipat.

"The most interesting news is the Phak Anakhot Mai (New Future Party), which brings together young vibrant and prepared people who do not let themselves be influenced by the country’s deep religious tradition,” said the observer.

"Theirs is a new language, especially with regard to issues such as corruption. In Thai politics they represent a real break with the past. Their candidates are very-well prepared, but their limited experience remains an unknown factor.” Still, people are waiting for the elections "with high hopes".

"In this election, the country cannot fail. The return to democracy is crucial for its economy and reputation. It is now clear that the current way (ruling military junta) is no longer possible to move forward.”

In recent weeks, many have said that the election will be decided by farmers, who are one of the most influential voting blocks in the country. "In my opinion, farmers will respect the tradition and vote for the Phak Phuea Thai,” the observer noted.

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