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Election: The problems ahead, Tuesday

Tim Newton

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Election: The problems ahead, Tuesday | The Thaiger
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PHOTO: The political dance of horse-trading begins. Prayut Chan-o-cha in campaign mode

And so we awake on the second day since the election. With 95% of votes counted we’re in firm territory now as far as voting trends are concerned . So we can start guessing which way the new parliament might be formed. Here are the main issues for Tuesday.

The missing NZ ballots

The Election Commission will meet today to decide what to do with the ‘invalid’ ballots delivered late to polling booths. In one example, the Thai Embassy in New Zealand and Thai Airways have both defended their situation saying they did everything correctly by getting the votes sorted and delivered in time. Whether the votes are included or not will come down to decision from the Election Commission. The bottomline, the votes won’t change the big picture although we are sure the expats voting in New Zealand would like their votes to be counted.

The Election Commission

The body tasked with running the election, counting and collating the votes have come under attack from all sides. From minor lapses in security, a few poorly handled situations in booths to some more major accusations that are currently being investigated by police. The overseas observers have not been particularly impressed by the EC’s performance either citing a number of small issues at booths around the country.

But the EC’s biggest battles are yet to come as they will be forced to adjudicate on who has the right to form a coalition. Both Pheu Thai and Palang Pracharat maintain they have the ‘right’ to form a lower house government. Just imagine all the late night phone calls criss-crossing the country at the moment?!

We won’t even get started on the petition to oust the Election Commission which has already gained over 600,000 signatures.

The coalition

No one party will have an outright majority to form a government. Both Palang Pracharat and Pheu Thai will have to do deal with ‘hostiles’ in order to make up the numbers to form a lower house government. There are very few combinations of parties coming together where a LOT of distance will have to be covered to merge their competing policy differences.

Future Forward, the party with the third highest total seats, has little common ground with Pheu Thai, apart from wanting to rid the country of the military government. They’re even further, terminally separated really, from Palang Pracharat.

Future Forward has laid down three conditions for a coalition, based on its campaign pledges – to rewrite the constitution, eliminate the legacy of military coups and push for military reform so coups won’t happen again. Their 80+ votes would push Pheu Thai into an extremely strong position to form a government.

But the Democrats and BumJaiThai are likely more accommodating to negotiation, although seeing the Democrats side with Pheu Thai, once mortal political enemies, would be a long-shot. It’s more likely the Democrats would, if pushed, side with Palang Pracharat with their 53 lower house seats.

BumJaiThai is more complex to predict which way they will side. Their 51 or so seats will be a powerful swing, whichever way they go.

The other smaller parties, together, add up to a crucial buffer for one party or the other.

Most likely scenario

Casting our eyes into the political crystal ball (always dangerous in Thai politics), The Thaiger thinks that the Pheu Thai party is the more likely to be able to form a government – either with a decent majority (with BumJaiThai giving them their votes) or with the merest of slim majorities if BJT side with Palang Pracharat. Either way Pheu Thai are going to have to let some of their power slip to accommodate the other parties. And you can be assured that Thaksin is sitting comfortably, still in exile, crunching numbers and overseeing the discussions.

Even if this happens, the pro-military Senators may ignore the lower house mandate (if Pheu Thai pull it together) and side with Palang Pracharat to install Prayut as the PM of a new minority Government.

This would be highly unstable with almost all legislation being voted down in the lower house and needing both houses to sit to pass any new legislation. It wouldn’t be pretty.

The Thai elephant in the room

The Election Commission announced yesterday that they wouldn’t announce the official results of the election until… are you ready… May 9! That’s after the coronation of HM The King.

Whether parties can legally negotiate until the official results of the March 24 have been announced is a moot point – they already have.

The Coronation will therefore take place with a caretaker government and that point hasn’t even come up for discussion yet.

Thai elephant in the room II

Thaksin Shinawatra would be disappointed that his Pheu Thai government didn’t poll better but he’s already stated the bleeding obvious; that the system was specifically rigged to lessen the chances of yet another Pheu Thai victory. Despite living in exile, his political cunning will be felt in the coming weeks as he cobbles together a Pheu Thai coalition with other parties.

 

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Tim Newton has lived in Thailand since 2012. An Australian, he has worked in the media, principally radio and TV, for nearly 40 years. He has won the Deutsche Welle Award for best radio talk program, presented 3,900 radio news bulletins in Thailand alone, hosted 450 daily TV news programs, produced 1,800 videos, TV commercials and documentaries and is now the General Manager and writer for The Thaiger. He's reported for CNN, Deutsche Welle TV, CBC, Australia's ABC TV and Australian radio during the 2018 Cave Rescue.

Election

Education minister’s wife plans to run for governor of Bangkok

The Thaiger

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Education minister’s wife plans to run for governor of Bangkok | The Thaiger

The education minister of Thailand’s wife is planning to run for the governor of Bangkok when the city poll is called, in a move that puts her in direct competition with others for the backing of the ruling Palang Pracharath Party.

Nataphol Teepsuwan confirmed on Friday that his wife Taya Teepsuwan, a former core member of the now-defunct Peoples’ Democratic Reform Committee, would contest the unscheduled gubernatorial election.

Natapol met briefly with PM Prayut, with some speculating that the Government House meeting was centred around his wife’s future political career. But Natapol denied that was the focus of the meeting.

Her decision to run could be problematic as Bangkok governor Aswin Kwanmuang or former police chief Chakthip Chaijinda are expected to run under the Palang Pracharath banner. Both of those candidates were close to the party back when PM Prayut was the junta leader.

Chakthip has given signs of his intentions to run as he set up a Facebook page this month, while Aswin has not officially made up his mind whether to run or stand aside for the former national police chief.

But Natapol says his wife, who is a former deputy Bangkok governor, plans to a run as an independent if she is passed over by Palang Pracharath. The education minister said he had informed party leader Prawit Wongsuwon of his wife’s intention.

Taya is the youngest child and only daughter of the late business tycoon Chalermbhand and Khunying Sasima Srivikorn. Along with her husband, she co-founded the Rugby International School in Chonburi.

Taya was also the managing director of Srivikorn School and holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics from Thailand’s Chulalongkorn University as well as a Master’s Degree in Business Administration from the Sasin Graduate Institute of Business Administration at Chulalongkorn University. She also has a Master’s in Analysis, Design and Management of Information Systems from The London School of Economics & Political Science.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Election

Voting starts in Thailand’s provinces, excluding Bangkok, alcohol ban in place until 6pm

The Thaiger

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Voting starts in Thailand’s provinces, excluding Bangkok, alcohol ban in place until 6pm | The Thaiger

Thailand goes to the polls today for the first time in 6 years for provincial elections. The last time was in 2014, just before the latest military coup seized power from the Yingluck Shinawatra government in May 2014. An election for Thailand’s central government was held in March 2019.

The elections taking place today are for the provincial administrative organisation chiefs as well as council members for the provincial administrative organisations. Pattaya and Bangkok, both considered special administrative zones, will have similar local elections sometime next year according to the Thai Election Commission (other parts of Chon Buri still have to vote today).

An alcohol sales and distribution ban is still in place in all other provinces in Thailand. It started at 6pm last night and will last until 6pm this evening, after the polls close.

Voting Thais have been told they must wear a face mask when they go to place their vote today.

A provincial administrative chief is the elected official for province management who works in conjunction with the Provincial Governor, a government appointment.

SOURCE: Pattaya News

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Election

US federal judge shoots down President Trump’s attempt to block Pennsylvania vote certification

The Thaiger

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US federal judge shoots down President Trump’s attempt to block Pennsylvania vote certification | The Thaiger

A US federal judge has shot down US President Trump’s campaign team’s attempt to block the certification of votes in the state of Pennsylvania. The judge issued the order that also refuted claims of widespread irregularities for mail-in ballots. The news comes after President Trump has refused to concede the election despite other leaders worldwide already recognising Joe Biden, a democrat, as the president-elect.

Pennsylvania may have been Mr. Trump’s final hope for arguing against the election results, as the state holds 20 electoral votes. In an attempt to bring the issue into court, Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, made an appearance in the court, for the first time in decades, to argue the case.

But the US District Court Judge Matthew Brann wasn’t having it. In his order, he detailed Trump’s request for the court to disenfranchise almost 7 million votes. Judge Brann ruled that Pennsylvania officials indeed could certify the election results by showing that Mr. Biden had won the state by 80,000 votes. He further noted that the Trump campaign team presented strained legal arguments “without merit and speculative accusations … unsupported by evidence”.

“One might expect that when seeking such a startling outcome, a plaintiff would come formidably armed with compelling legal arguments and factual proof of rampant corruption, so much that the court would have no option but to stop the certification even though it would impact so many people. That has not happened.”

Despite Pennsylvania’s strong number of votes in the electoral college, Donald Trump still would have needed to win the other lawsuits that he had filed, where his campaign team also asked to delay certification of votes. Following suit, however, most of the courts rejected the lawsuits, citing the need for proof that fraud could have occurred.

Giuliani and a Trump campaign lawyer are holding fort by noting that they welcomed the dismissal as they could appeal to the US Supreme Court faster, where Trump has continuously claimed that he has sympathetic justices. Senator Pat Toomey, a Pennsylvania Republican who helped place Judge Brann on the bench, said the ruling showed Trump had exhausted all possible legal avenues in the state and went on to congratulate Biden on his victory.

“Brann is a longtime conservative Republican whom I know to be a fair and unbiased jurist.”

Giuliani, a former federal prosecutor and New York mayor, didn’t appear to be much of a help in the court after he seemingly confused the meaning of “opacity”, provoked an opposing lawyer, and seemed unaware of the Pennsylvania election code when he said it was illegal for counties to help people vote. Trump’s attorneys also teamed up by saying that the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection under the law was violated when Pennsylvania counties took different approaches to notifying voters before the election about technical problems with their submitted mail-in ballots.

The judge dismissed the argument entirely, and Mark Aronchick, an opposing lawyer, addressed Giuliani directly about the Pennsylvania election code

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, a Democrat, tweeted shortly after Brann’s ruling that “another one bites the dust.”

“These claims were meritless from the start and for an audience of one,” Shapiro said in a statement. “The will of the people will prevail. These baseless lawsuits need to end.”

SOURCE: Associate Press

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