BANGKOK (AFP): Thai election monitors have sent a simple message by disqualifying 78 victors in the Senate elections on grounds of vote fraud — cheats will no longer be tolerated, analysts said Tuesday. The decision to annul more than a third of the results from the March 4 polls serves notice that the Election Commission will carefully apply a new anti-corruption constitution, they said. The commission’s actions will also be taken as a statement of intent ahead of Thailand’s first general elections under the constitution adopted in late 1997, later this year. Sukhum Nualsakul, a Bangkok-based political scientist, said he hoped the commission’s “brave move” would deter future candidates from cheating. “I believe that the Election Commission has evidence to support their decision,” he said. “I agree with them — if elections are not free and fair, they should be nullified as the commission is empowered to do by the constitution.” The upper house Senate polls were the first to be held under a new constitution introduced to purge the corruption and rampant vote buying which have dogged Thai democracy for decades. Sukhum said he believed that even though disqualified candidates would be furious at the commission’s decision, they would have little choice but to accept the ruling. “The ones who condemn the commission, or angrily react to it, will look bad in the eyes of the public as the public strongly supports the commission,” he said. But some observers say that corruption is so ingrained in Thai politics that an election commission can never hope to completely eradicate vote fraud. Banned candidates included the wife of Interior Minister Sanan Kachornprasart, Chaweewan Kachornprasart, who stood in Nonthaburi province in the March 4 polls. Also disqualified were Maliwan Ngernmuen, wife of Justice Minister Suthas Ngernmuen, and Usanee Chidchob, sister of Agriculture Minister Newin Chidchob.
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