from Asia Unbound

Thailand’s Election Day: Overall, the Voters Win, But Chaos Ahead

February 03, 2014

Election commission officials display ballot papers to the media while counting votes at a polling station in Bangkok on February 2, 2014. (Athit Perawongmetha/ Courtesy Reuters)
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Despite protesters blocking voting in southern provinces and many parts of Bangkok, and despite several serious incidents of violence in Bangkok, including a gunfight in the streets, the Sunday election actually was somewhat more peaceful than expected, and turnout slightly higher than expected. The relatively high turnout, the lack of widespread violence that protest leaders surely hoped would erupt, and the fact that heads of the armed forces quietly voted, suggests that overall, Sunday was a net loss for the anti-government PDRC, though hardly a sign that the Thai government is now in the clear.

The Bangkok Post has a fine summary here.

An important point made in this article is that, with the relatively high turnout and with the voters surely re-electing the government, the PDRC will now have to push to overturn a new electoral mandate, which will make the protesters look even more anti-democratic than they already do. This is surely saying something, but I agree that pushing to overturn a government that is basically re-elected will be harder; though I still think that the PDRC and Thailand’s elite institutions stand a good chance of fatally weakening Puea Thai. In addition, the fact that the government was able to keep open around 85 to 90 percent of polling stations, also a higher figure than was expected, will give the election more power, and the victors greater legitimacy. Though PDRC leaders have quietly—and not so quietly—pushed the military to openly take sides against the government, and though I believe senior military leaders would like to see the back of Puea Thai, the voting by armed forces leaders suggests that the military is too divided to take a stronger stance against the government, which is a positive sign for Thailand’s democracy.