BANGKOK — Thai Raksa Chart Party and its candidates may be out of the race, but it doesn’t mean its supporters are giving up.
Fans of the now-defunct party in the northern province of Phrae on Tuesday campaigned for an unconventional ballot strategy: Vote “None of the Above” so a new election has to be organized.
Woravat Auapinyakul, who had been Thai Raksa Chart’s candidate for the province, expressed his gratitude to supporters in an online post today.
“Seeing every brother and sister that is standing up and taking on a fight like this, I’m so touched and impressed that I cannot find words,” Woravat wrote. “No matter what happens, whether we will win or lose, this memory will always stay with me.”
Woravat is among more than 200 candidates disqualified from the race when their party was disbanded Thursday for nominating an elder sister of King Rama X to run for prime minister. The Constitutional Court ruled that violated a ban on involving the monarchy in politics.
Under current voting law, if more people vote for “none” than they do for any candidate in a constituency, a new election must be held. Candidates who already ran on the ballot would be disqualified from the by-election, former Election Commissioner Somchai Srisuthiyakorn said in an interview.
“In theory, a Thai Raksa Chart candidate could run on another party’s ticket,” said Somchai, who helped draft current election law.
The mechanism is a novel one. Ballots have routinely allowed voters to select “none” from a list of candidates, but doing so was afforded no significance under previous election regulations.
Though the party was rumored to be behind the vote-none campaign, a Thai Raksa Chart leader said today they were not involved in Woravut’s attempt to run again by exploiting the loophole.
“As far as I know, it was Woravat’s campaign director who suggested the tactics to him,” party sec-gen Vim Rungwattanachinda said in an interview. “He doesn’t consult us at all … I don’t even know if that’s really a thing.”
Former Thai Raksa Chart adviser Chaturon Chaisang, who has formed his own political advocacy group after disbandment, urged supporters to vote for a candidate running on similar policies instead of abstaining.
“If you do that, votes will be truly wasted,” he wrote online.
Current Election Commission sec-gen Jarungvith Phumma would not comment beyond saying his office was aware of the campaign.
“We are making inquiries about it,” he said by phone.
Although 13 executives of Thai Raksa Chart were barred from politics for 10 years by the court, all of its candidates could swap parties and run in the election, given they registered with a party 90 days before voting takes place. To comply with that rule, Woravat is now a registered member of party ally Pheu Thai.
So in theory, Woravat could run in a by-election taking place within 90 days from now, Somchai the former election official said.
Media reports say two other major candidates in Woravat’s constituency are neophytes from the Democrat and Phalang Pracharat parties – an advantage that could help tip the balance to Woravat, a veteran politician who has headed four ministries since entering public life in 1990.
But former commissioner Somchai said that, even were everything to go according to Woravat’s plan, it still might be too late for him. Election laws state that voting must be held by May 9, and the results formally confirmed by May 24 – both milestones less than 90 days from now. By-elections typically take place before final outcomes are confirmed.
“It will be very difficult for him in practice,” Somchai said.