Why voting “no” has become an issue

The on-going probe by the Election Commission into a campaign by some of the politicians belonging to the disbanded Thai Raksa Chart Party for voters to “vote no” in the March-24 election has highlighted one important aspect of the poll which until recently was largely overlooked.

The ex-TRC members concentrate their campaign in constituencies in which the party had their candidates before it was dissolved at the order of the Constitutional Court on March 7.  Their hope is that there would be enough “no votes” to render elections in these particular constituencies null and void, thus prompting election re-runs.

Itthiporn Boonprakong, chairman of the Election Commission, on Tuesday ordered an investigation into the campaign on the grounds that it would be a breach of the law on MP elections.  The ex-TRC members, however, insisted that they are only exercising their democratic rights and have done nothing wrong.

The ballots in the upcoming election have a  “no” box for voters to tick in the event they do not wish to vote for any of the candidates in that particular constituency.

But under the election law, voting “no” is more than rejecting the candidates. The “no” votes would be calculated against the winning constituency candidate.    If the number of “no” votes is more than the number of votes gained by the winning candidate, the election in that particular constituency would be declared null and void, prompting a re-run.

The dissolution of Thai Raksa Chart Party has resulted in all of its constituency and party list candidates disqualified.  Many of them, however, apparently hope that election re-runs would provide them with an opportunity to rejoin the election.   To qualify as candidates in elections, MP hopefuls need to be registered members of a political party for at least 90 days before the polling date.

The Election Commission, however, views the political maneuvering by the ex-TRC members in a different light.  EC chairman Itthiporn sees it as a possible violation of the MP elections law.   He cited an article of the law which essentially prohibits anyone from encouraging votes to vote “no”.

However, there has been a debate on the “no” vote among many voters for quite some time, especially among those who feel disillusioned with politicians and don’t believe that the upcoming election would make any difference.

For them, voting “no” on the election day would represent a strong political message.


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