Monday, March 31, 2014

Thai Senate Election

A man casts his ballot in Sunday's senate election in Thailand. 

What if they gave an election and hardly anybody voted? Thais woke up to that reality this morning. Turnout for the Senate election was somewhere around 40%, very low by Thai standards. 

Even in the confused and disputed election in February, when gunmen tried to intimidate voters and polls in a large swathe of southern Thailand never opened because anti-government protestors prevented people from registering as candidates and blockaded polling places, preventing people who wanted to vote from doing so, turnout was about 44%. So the 40% turnout for a peaceful, undisputed election is very low. 

The upper house of the Thai parliament, the Senate (originally modeled after the British House of Lords) is partially elected and partially appointed. The breakdown is nearly 50/50 - 77 elected, 73 appointed. The people who stand for Senate election are supposed to be non-partisan, they aren't allowed to run if they've engaged in any partisan activities in the last five years. 

The appointed senators are selected by independent organizations, like the judiciary, the Anti-Corruption Commission, Constitutional Court etc. These bodies are widely perceived by Red Shirts and Pheu Thai (the ruling party) members as being anti-government. I don't know if that's true, but I do know Suthep and the anti-government protestors he controls made no effort to prevent people from voting Sunday and polling proceeded peacefully everywhere in Thailand, even in the south which is the power base of the anti-government protestors. 

I went out to photograph people voting, except turnout was so light there was hardly anyone voting or anything to photograph. 
A polling place waits to open. Ballot boxes are left open on their side so people can see the boxes aren't stuffed before the polls open.