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The maths of March 24 – Thailand Election 2019

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by Tim Newton

The views of the writer do not necessarily reflect the views of The Thaiger or its business partners.

Since it was first formed in 2008, along with the previous incarnations that swept Thaksin Shinawatra to power in the early 2000s, the Pheu Thai party has remained the dominant force in Thai politics. In 2011 it brought Thaksin’s sister Yingluck to the prime minster’s desk. But a coup in 2014 swept the elected government out of office citing dangerous street protests that had broken out between the Red Shirts (Thaksin sympathisers, mostly representing the populous north and north-east regions) and Yellow Shirts (Bangkok elite, ‘monarchists’ and southern provinces)*.

The maths are quite simple. All things being equal, the Pheu Thai and pro-Thaksin parties would win the March 24 election by sheer weight of numbers of the country’s north-of-Bangkok population base.

But the military have shown that they will stop at nothing to reduce the possibility of Pheu Thai winning another election. They’ve changed the country’s constitution, electoral system and run a, nearly, five year campaign of one-sided propaganda to ensure that a military-sympathetic government, and PM, will rule when the dust settles on the March 24 vote.

The Thai Raksa Chart Party was set up to ‘manipulate’ the new proportional voting system for the country’s lower house of parliament. Early polls showed that the combined power of Pheu Thai and Thai Raksa Chart parties, plus support from a few other minor pro-Thaksin parties, would likely give it the magic 376 MPs to command a majority and form the next government.

With the Constitutional Court disbanding Thai Raksa Chart and banning it’s MPs from forming new parties, a Pheu Thai victory is much, MUCH, more difficult. Taking advantage of the new proportional electoral system Pheu Thai only fielded candidates in 250 constituencies with Thai Raksa Chart fielding MPs in other electorates .

The Pheu Thai-led alliance still needs 376 MPs to regain political power, but it will have to win big and the votes fall their way under the new proportional system.

The mountain to climb has got a lot steeper.

To simplify an extremely complex electoral situation, you can break down the three ‘camps’ into the pro-military parties, the pro-Thaksin parties and the Democrats (and others).

According to recent polls the Pheu Thai party will win the largest share of electorates in the country, hands down. Second, a long way back, will be the Democrats (popular in the capital and southern provinces), the Phalang Pracharat party (with Prayut Chan-o-cha as its PM candidate) in third place and the new Future Forward party drawing the fourth largest block of votes (they have certainly emerged as the rising stars!).

It is statistically likely, actually highly likely, that no party will win a majority (376 seats) in the lower house of Parliament. So the phones will be running hot post March 24 as parties negotiate to form a workable coalition. The most obvious coalition, but historically unlikely, would be all the pro-Thaksin parties putting their numbers together with the Democrats – traditionally political enemies but both hell-bent in getting the military out of politics.

But TIT, it’s Thai politics and, really, anything could happen.

Proportional Voting System: All ballots cast for all parties will be counted together and calculated into the number of seats each party gets out of 500. If it is figured out that Party A gets 200 seats and it already wins 190 constituency seats in the election, it will get an additional 10 seats.

• The Palang Pracharat Party, which has Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha as its prime minister candidate, can get several seats without having to win at any constituency (under the new proportional voting system), not least because it has taken many northern and northeastern veterans under its wings.

• If a party has a lot of constituency MPs, it will have a disadvantage when it comes to getting MPs from the proportional system.

• Thai Raksa Chart branched out from Pheu Thai allegedly out of hope that “many are better than one”. The “satellite parties” do not need to win at constituencies, but they should be popular enough to gain substantial votes.

In short, Pheu Thai and its allies need a groundswell of public sympathy in the remaining two weeks. Previously hated by non-Pheu Thai voters, the ‘reds’ have become the underdogs and are getting back-handed support simply by being anti-military.

The court’s short but eloquent ruling dissolving Thai Raksa Chart will be weighed against the emotional goodbye message of the party’s leader and the outcome of that will influence voters.

Whatever happens on March 24, and the final make up of the lower house, the NCPO have ‘rigged’ the parliamentary upper house (the NLA) with military-sympathetic Senators who are all appointed.

Here’s an outrageous prediction…

A coalition of non-military parties will form the next government post March 24. Because no single party will win a majority of seats and select their own Prime Minister, the two houses of parliament will sit to elect an ‘outsider’ PM.

That ‘outsider’ will likely be (roll the drums), Prayut Chan-o-cha.

Then a ‘rubber-stamp’ upper house will continue the conservative work of the past military government amid a whole new raft of daily political squabbles.

But March 24 is still two weeks away and more surprises are likely. TIT.

* Our broad definitions of Red and Yellow shirts are VERY general

 

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Election

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

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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

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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

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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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