PATONG: Former mayor Pian Keesin, leader of the Rak Patong Party (RPP), beat rival Songserm Kepsap of the Patong Progress Party (PPP) by just 147 votes in the replay of municipal elections held yesterday. The results have yet to be confirmed by the Central Election Commission, which declared the previous election void. Of the 9,213 Patong residents eligible to vote, 5,997, or 65%, turned out for the poll. This was slightly fewer than the 6,239 who cast ballots in the previous poll on February 8, the results of which were nullified by the Central Election Commission on June 11. In the new poll, K. Pian received 2,934 votes and K. Songserm 2,787. There were 153 spoiled ballots, while 123 people ticked the “neither” box for mayor. Even if the election results stand – never a certainty in a Patong election – K. Pian may find it difficult to run the town effectively because 15 of the 18 town council members elected on Sunday are aligned with his opponent, K. Songserm. Dr Prapa Kayee, Chairman of the Phuket Election Committee (PEC), told the Gazette that the amount of time needed to confirm the results would depend on how many complaints her committee receives. People have three days to lodge complaints, she added. The results of the last election were declared void on June 11 and both parties were issued “yellow cards” indicating that both had broken campaign rules but that no specific offender could be pinpointed. Details of the infractions proven were not made public. The election replay was called for June 20, just nine days later, apparently in an effort to reduce the window of opportunity for vote-buying. Dr Prapa said, “If there are no complaints, confirmation may take only 10 days from the day we file our report to the Central Election Committee (CEC). “But if there are complaints and the CEC announces that this election too was unfair, the CEC will consider issuing either yellow or red cards [to the violators] depending on the evidence presented,” she explained. “We want Patong to have a Mayor and we want this to be the last election,” she added. Sadly for Dr Prapa’s wishes, complaints have already been lodged. PPP deputy leader Somkiat Kuru said, “Some people have already filed complaints about this election with the police and the PEC, and there will be more. “The same things occurred [as last time], such as the circulation of rumors and the spreading of disinformation,” he said. K. Somkiat added that the election results seemed strange to him, with 15 PPP members being elected, but not their leader. “It’s unusual that the leader wasn’t elected,” he said. While conceding defeat, PPP leader K. Songserm predicted that K. Pian would have difficulty running the municipality with 15 PPP members dominating the council. Making the rounds this morning to thank those who voted for him, K. Pian told the Gazette, that he and his administrative team would hold a strategy meeting soon. His last stint as mayor ended in October 2001, when his town budget proposal was rejected by the council, effectively a vote of no confidence. He praised the PEC for what he described as a clean poll. “The PEC worked very well and was very strict in this election, so there were fewer mistakes. “If the other side wants to file a complaint, they’re within their rights,” he said. “But I am not worried because I was not involved in vote-buying.” He added that his improved numbers (he lost to K. Songserm in the first poll by 322 votes) were because the ballot papers had been improved and were easier for people to understand. “My votes came from people who spoiled ballots last time,” he said. He added that although only three members from his team were elected, he did not expect this to affect his administration. “Every member of the council wants to work for Patong. I will be a leader and will present my vision and my abilities. It is inconceivable that they would simply oppose [me] without any reason.”
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