The kingdom is holding its first election in five years on Sunday, with nearly 80 political parties contesting the ballot. The polls are open 8am to 5pm, check here if you’re not sure where to vote. Khaosod English reporters are at locations throughout the capital all day today to bring updates from the field. Find all of our election coverage at KhaosodEnglish.com.
And that’s it for us. For years, we’ve striven collectively to serve our readers with the best reporting we can in the finest traditions of ethical, adversarial journalism. I am humbled by the dusk-to-dawn stamina of our small team of reporters who’ve been out in the streets talking to voters, listening to officials and feasting on streams of data to keep our audience informed. I hope you are as well. On a personal note, after just shy of four years, today marks the end of my tenure as editor. Thanks for reading and please continue to follow Khaosod English. – Todd Ruiz
That’s a wrap. The parties are reluctant to speak in detail until everything’s final and some burning questions get answered – or not – when the Election Commission delivers its report on the outcome, warts and all, which has been delayed from tonight to 2pm on Monday.
Phalang Pracharat offers “a special thank you to election officials for conducting a smooth election” in comments from their party headquarters. Party chairman Uttama Savanayana says he is not worried about complaints filed to the Election Commission about irregularities today.
LIVE: Pheu Thai party sec-gen Phumtham Wechayachai insists that whoever wins the most seats should be allowed to form a government in brief comments delivered from party headquarters just before 11pm in Bangkok.
“We insist the party who won the most seats should have the right to form a govt first,” Phumtham said.
He said there were many irregularities that need to be sorted out before any results are finalized: “Since the EC has not insisted on giving a final count, we will wait.”
Adding to the confusion on election night is the unstable vote counts offered by the Election Commission. One minute a certain party may win 7 million votes, another minute the tally dropped to 6 million before rising again minutes later.
Like many other irregularities during the election day, the commission gave no explanation on the disparities. But it could be a result of a larger problem: errors in reports of tallies sent from local officials.
These results can be outrageously inaccurate, to the point that it was obvious to casual viewers. In a Sukhothai constituency there was about 200 percent turnout. Total ballots count were also larger than those present for voting in Nakhon Sawan and Korat.
Although these errors appear to be eventually corrected, they are sure to feed suspicions of unfair voting even further.
We’re awaiting press conferences from Phalang Pracharath and Pheu Thai before calling it a night.
There’s a lot of buzz on social media about the number of spoiled/invalid ballots, about 1.7 million of them across the country.
Although that’s doubtless a high number – more than what many parties received in total – millions of spoiled ballots are common in past elections. In 2011, there were more than 3 million invalidated ballots.
Abhisit Vejjajiva, former prime minister and leader of Thailand’s oldest political part, has reportedly resigned to “take responsibility” for his party’s lackluster showing.
Just as some people thought the worst was over, Election Commission had yet another surprise up its sleeve. Its chairman abruptly announced final results won’t be announced tonight, despite having pledged to do so for months.
Election Commission chairman Itthiporn Boonprakong gave no explanation to the bizarre decision. He simply said a news conference will be held 10am tomorrow and then walked off the stage.
He also said voter turnout was about 66 percent, somewhat lower than the last election in 2011. He went on to give numbers of overseas voters, early voters and complaints received during the election.
Itthiporn left the news conference without any apology for numerous mishaps in the voting procedures.
In response to the change of mind, Future Forward canceled its news conference set for 10pm as the result was not confirmed.
Junta chairman Prayuth Chan-ocha thanked everyone involved in organizing the election and those who went out to vote, according to his aide Athisit Chainuwat.
Athisit said the junta leader will continue to serve his role until the new government is in place. He made no mention of the latest election results, which placed pro-junta Phalang Pracharath over its rival Pheu Thai.
Observers use flashlights to monitor vote counting at a polling station in the Sai Mai district of Bangkok. Lighting issues were reported in several constituencies.
Todd: We have enough votes counted to start talking about results – let the punditry begin! Pheu Thai in the lead – expected. Phalang Pracharath such a close second – expected? Future Forward is doing very well for a novice party, I think all would agree. Performing with voters is much more than having deep pockets. Is anyone else a little surprised that Bhumjaithai is showing so strong? The power of the Weed Block?
Asaree: I think the power of the gray vote. Phalang Pracharath’s strong second is higher than I expected, at least. Those of us living online in our internet bubbles who saw mostly anti-Prayuth sentiment came out today and saw voters at the actual polls were, well, old. At four polling stations today, I noticed that not only were the elderly vigilant in voting, there were generational differences from the young, even within families.
Todd: It’s easier to click shares and reactions on social media than vote; young people around the world are famous for not showing up when it counts.
Chayanit: Bhumjaithai surprisingly was No. 1 in several provinces and it could arguably be thanks to their strong progressive stands on cannabis. They’ve promised big money in families’ pockets! That’s a big selling point!
Teeranai: Everyone’s had good and bad news. Pheu Thai will sigh in relief to see itself in the lead, but Phalang Pracharat is not too far behind, which might mean another term for the junta leader. “Futuristas” will definitely whoop in delight, but like Pheu Thai, its chance to rule is not yet clear. On-the-fence Bhumjaithai will likely be the winner either way. The worst of the bad news probably goes to Democrats: many supporters seem to find new homes in the Phalang Pracharat and the even-more hardline Action Coalition of Thailand.
Todd: Let’s do some hot-takes. What can we prematurely declare today has said about Thailand in 2019? Bonus points for drawing grand conclusions. I’ll go first: The Democrats are toast, collapsed into a quantum singularity of irrelevance by their own identity crisis.
Lobsang: Should the final results resemble these, it is likely that we will see a fragile government as some observers have pointed out, one in which incumbent Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha will head a majority backed by the senate appointed by his ruling junta.
Pravit: Poor voters in Bangkok who used to vote for the Democrats seem to have abandoned them for pro-junta Phalang Pracharath. It seems the welfare cards for the poor promoted so strongly by the military government paid off. Future Forward seemed to gain a windfall in the many constituencies where Pheu Thai had no game because Thai Raksa Chart was disbanded.
In the capital, where pro-establishment parties have historically done well, the numbers are skewed from the national results. With 38 percent of votes counted, the parties rank as follows in Bangkok:
Phalang Pracharath 92,968
Future Forward 90,888
Pheu Thai 72,835
New Economy 15,856
Outrage is breaking out online after the Election Commission said the entire batch of 1,500 overseas votes cast in New Zealand did not arrive in time to be counted, rendering them void. The plane carrying the ballots left New Zealand on Friday, but a series of flight transfers and delays prevented them from arriving in Thailand by 5pm, commissioner Jarungvith Phumma said at a news conference.
Future Forward leaders Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit and Piyabutr Saengkanokkul thanked their supporters at the party’s headquarters for their votes. Future Forward is currently running fourth in early returns.
A reporter for Thai PBS says an official at a polling station in Bangkok counted a ballot for Phalang Pracharath as valid even though it was marked incorrectly.
17.58น ที่หน่วยฯ44 เขต7 กทม. บัตรคะแนนมีผู้กากบาททับเบอร์ผู้สมัคร กรรมการ กกต.พิจารณาชี้ให้ดูที่เจตนา จึงเป็นบัตรดี นับคะแนนให้ เบอร์ 4 พรรคพลังประชารัฐ #นับคะแนน #เลือกตั้ง2562 #ThaiPBSnews pic.twitter.com/dK8n5BChV6
— AnnTPBS (@TpbsAnn) March 24, 2019
LIVE: See votes counted at a polling place in northern Bangkok where one woman hopes pro-junta party Phalang Pracharath will triumph over the “termites.”
Reporters Asaree Thaitrakulpanich and Chayanit Itthipongmaetee were at the Chonniwet Village polling station near Prachaniwet junction, where officials counted votes as concerned locals – mostly elderly voters – looked on.
One poll worker picks up a ballot and reads out the voting code for the chosen party while another repeats the code and tallies it on a hanging poster.
“People around here are mature and educated,” Natcha Benjaporn, 72, said. She said both she and her husband had voted for “the party with the most votes right now” because it would make the country “peaceful … we have a bright future.”
The Chonniwet Village polling sheet had the Phalang Pracharat party in the clear lead.
She said other parties were “NATO.”
“No action, talk only. A lot of parties talk but they couldn’t do it,” she said. “At least we don’t have termites to take out all the goodies from the country.”
Pheu Thai PM candidate Sudarat Keyuraphan hugs a supporter at her party headquarters, minutes after several pollsters predict her party as the winner.
Very early returns are coming in. We’re waiting for them to crest over a couple percent of votes cast.
Reporters Chayanit Itthipongmaetee and Asaree Thaitrakulpanich are now at Phalang Pracharath Party headquarters on Ratchadaphisek Road.
After polls closed at 5pm, a thick scrum of reporters gathered for news, but party leaders appeared to speak briefly for a little over two minutes to thank people for their votes.
“This is a changing point in Thai society,” party leader Uttama Saowanayon said. “Thank you for every vote that put trust in Phalang Pracharath.”
Asked if he was confident the party would win enough seats to form a government, Uttama replied, “Let’s wait for the results together. We will probably be seeing more of each other soon.”
From the completely anecdotal department: Our reporter at a polling station at the Washiratham Satit School in Phra Kanong said the ballot boxes closed and counting began within minutes after polls closed at 5pm. Jintamas reported overhearing “a lot of votes counted for Future Forward, Phalang Pracharath” here.
A fuller accounting from the Suan Dusit Poll has forecast Pheu Thai will win 173 of 500 seats in parliament, Phalang Pracharat 96, Democrats 88, Future Forward 49, Bhumjaithai 40 and Seri Ruam Thai 17.
The pollster said it surveyed 79,521 voters across Thailand up to two days prior to Election Day. It did not cite its methodology or margin of error.
Just In: Super Poll also released its own forecast, which appeared similar to that of Suan Dusit: 163 seats for Pheu Thai, 96 for Phalang Pracharath, 77 for Democrats, 40 for Future Forward and 14 for Seri Ruam Thai.
We’ll find out in a few hours how well these polling agencies did, but their failure to disclose basic information essential to professional polling is not encouraging.
The Pheu Thai Party was the top choice of voters in a last-minute, pre-election poll kept under wraps until voting ended at 5pm today.
The Suan Dusit Poll, conducted two days before the election, found Phalang Pracharat in second followed by the Democrat Party in third. It was based on a poll of 70,000 voters. It did not publicize the poll’s margin of error or methodology.
While Pheu Thai has trended atop most recent polls, another just out from Bangkok University said the most voters favored Phalang Pracharat. It was conducted Wednesday. Bangkok University’s previous poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percent.
That’s it. Polls are closed. Expect exit polling any moment.
It seems Thailand’s most-restive region was at peace on Election Day. No violence was reported throughout the day in the three southern border provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat, where suspected separatists stage attacks on security forces nearly every day.
A high security presence was in place to keep order. Local officials expect voter turnout to be over 80 percent.
On a lighter note, a Kim Jong-Un impersonator recently kicked out of Vietnam voted today in Samut Prakan. The Supreme Leader, whose real name is Uthen Lueangsaengthong, urged the new government to improve the economy and preserve national unity.
Live: Interview with ANFREL head of mission Rohana Nishanta Hettiarachchie
The only international monitoring group, ANFREL, was able to deploy a paltry 34 observers to the thousands of polling stations nationwide. Head of mission Rohana Nishanta Hettiarachchie gave the process of today’s election a rough credibility score of “80 percent.”
“With our limited observations, it went in an acceptable manner today,” he said. “There were no big barriers for voters to come and exercise their rights to vote.”
ANFREL will host a news conference at 6pm.
As if anticipating trouble, deputy police commissioner Srivara Ransibrahmanakul said protests against the results of today’s election would be dealt with severely. He said police have prepared space to jail up to 1,000 people in case protests break out.
Srivara said any unauthorized protests would violate the Public Assembly Act.
Tune in shortly when we go live with Rohana Nishanta Hettiarachchie, the head of mission for ANFREL, the Asian Network for Free Elections. We’ll ask what their monitors have reported from the field today.
Just half an hour to go before the last votes are cast. Election Commissioner Jarungvith Phumma announced they have received 57 complaints of vote-buying, though he added that they would have to be investigated and verified.
He also said 10 people were arrested for damaging ballots.
The Election Commission will hold a news conference at 6pm, an hour after polls close, with the chairman to announce preliminary results some time between 8pm and 9pm, Jarungvith said.
Among first-time voters today was a man who wouldn’t have been able to due his stateless status.
Mong Thongdee, who soared to fame in 2009 after leading Thailand to victory in an international paper airplane competition, posted online that he finally got to vote as a Thai citizen.
Born to undocumented Burmese immigrants, Mong fought since the age of 12 to win Thai citizenship. His struggle won the support of many, who argued the student should be granted citizenship to contribute his skills to the country; Mong was once forced to turn down an invitation to represent Thailand in Japan at another paper plane tournament.
Mong, now 21, was made a citizen in August. He now coaches other paper plane enthusiasts.
An election official in Korat said a profile of a Future Forward candidate that had been covered up was the result of “a misunderstanding.”
Sirichai Viriyapong said staff at the polling station immediately removed the white paper from the candidate’s portrait as soon as they realized there was a mistake. An inquiry committee will look into the incident to determine how it happened, Sirichai said.
Staff at the booth also incorrectly told voters the candidate was disqualified from the race, prompting fury from party supporters online.
There’s only one hour left to vote. Alcohol sales will resume at 6pm, giving those looking to celebrate a couple hours to raise their spirits before preliminary results are announced. Our reporters are moving to be in place to report live from the headquarters of the Phalang Pracharath, Future Forward and Pheu Thai parties.
Elections may be a time for the public to air its grievances, but what happened in Tak province might have exceeded expectations.
More than 300 residents of two communities in the Umphang district gathered to announce they would not vote because the authorities have repeatedly ignored requests to bring electricity to their homes.
Soldiers and local officials quickly arrived at the protest and attempted to negotiate with the group. Reports say some were satisfied with the fresh promises and went to the polls while others remained at the rally.
Despite the introduction of electricity to Thailand over 80 years ago, some communities remain off the national grid. Two villages in Trang and Korat complained to the media about similar problems just last year.
An entire family of three couldn’t vote today because officials couldn’t find them registered anywhere.
Petcharat Champadaeng, 55, told reporters they had recently moved districts in Bangkok from Sathorn to Sai Mai. At the polling station in Sai Mai today, officials told him his name wasn’t found in database of either district. He filed a complaint with the Election Commission.
Just in from Khaosod English staff writer Jintamas Saksornchai, who is in the field with senior staff writer Pravit Rojanaphruk:
One concerned internet user reports that a voting booth at the Wat Inthrawat School was arranged with voting booths facing the street, where any passers-by could see how voters marked their ballots.
หน่วยเลือกตั้งโรงเรียนวัดอินทราวาสยังไม่มีผ้าหรือวัสดุมาปิดบริเวณด้านหลังคูหา โดยบางหน่วยตั้งคูหาอยู่ชิดกำแพงโรงเรียนริมถนนที่มีผู้คนสัญจรไปมา #สารวัตรเลือกตั้ง #เลือกตั้ง62 pic.twitter.com/J6ZbcwF9Gs
— ไม่ดูหนังเต๋อ (@watdafix) March 24, 2019
Less than two hours before polls close, a celebrity actor stirred controversy when he posted a picture of his folded ballot from inside the voting booth to Instagram.
“An important day for us all,” Toni Rakkaen, actor and model, wrote in English under the photo. He deleted the photo soon after comments pointed out that doing so is illegal.
A video news report seemed to catch the army red-handed in improper vote manipulation. Although the armed forces maintains their servicemen were not compelled to vote for any party, a short video report by Thairath TV appears to tell a different story.
In the video, an officer was seen peeking into the voting booth to see how his men marked their ballots at a polling station in Bangkok’s Phaya Thai district. It appeared to directly contradict army chief Gen. Apirat Kongsompong’s pledge that military officers will not be allowed inside voting stations. Watch the report here:
Junta chairman Prayuth Chan-ocha is reported to be golfing in northern Bangkok. Reporters were barred from entering the clubhouse.
Sources inside the junta say Prayuth will join his deputies Prawit Wongsuwan and Anupong Paojinda later this evening at the 1st King’s Guard Division base to watch results come in.
Watch our LIVE report about reported voting irregularities from P-Net election monitor group VP Laddawan Tantivitayapitak.
Speaking to Khaosod English, the vice president of poll monitoring group P-Net said widespread irregularities could take place due to the very small number of observers in the field.
“Our concern is that they don’t have poll watch to witness and observe in the polling stations. It could be a loophole for people to make mistakes or fraud,” Laddawan Tantivitayapitak said. “This can become very serious. If it happened in many polling stations, it won’t be just small mistakes.”
While there are about 90,000 polling stations in the country, Laddawan’s organization can only field 600 observers. She said they will have to be “mobile.”
She also criticized the Election Commission for seemingly shutting the door to foreign observers from the European Union.
“I think this present Election Commission, they don’t realize the importance of people’s participation. Not only from outside, even inside the country,” Laddawan said.
The election is a high priority for many, including a woman in Satun province who showed up in her wedding dress to vote before she ties the knot later today.
“I want a husband, and I also want to vote,” Wissanee Changlek wrote in a post, which has been shared more than 7,000 times.
สามีก้อจะเอา…. เลือกตั้งก้อจะเลือก… ทำหน้าที่วนไปค่ะปล.ถ่ายจากด้านหน้าหน่วยเลือกตั้งนะค่ะ
Some physicians also shared tales online about approving brief leaves for patients to go vote. In one online post, a doctor said an entire ward under her care had left to go vote.
We will be going live soon with election observers from the People’s Network for Elections, aka P-Net, to find out what reports they’re hearing from the field.
Election days are typically preceded by what Thais call “The Night of the Howling Dogs” in reference to the night after bans on political campaigning come to effect. It’s the time when the most furious vote-buying is alleged to take place.
The term itself refers to mysterious strangers going door to door to hand out money, causing dogs in each village to howl at the visitors.
The Election Commission said its officers worked with police all over the country last night to stop it. Two local officials arrested today in Nakhon Pathom were accused of buying votes last night (see below). Deputy national police chief Srivara Ransibrahmanakul says similar cases are being investigated in Kalasin and Korat provinces.
Widespread anxiety among junta opponents is that the vote counting may lack transparency. In a viral post, an actress-columnist took extreme measures by posting a prayer to the gods to protect her marked ballot.
“May I call upon all the deities in the heavens; every reincarnation of Lord Buddha; Lord Vishanu; Devi Shakti; Odin, the Father of All Things; Allah the Almighty; to bear witness,” Inthira Charoenpura wrote with a picture of the ballot box. “If anyone attempts to amend any word in these ballots … may karma haunt them and their families for generations.”
Reporters Asaree Thaitrakulpanich and Chayanit Itthipongmaetee continue their tour of voting locations with this live report.
It appears that tearing ballots is a trend this election. Six people have been arrested so far since polls opened today for damaging their ballots, a crime that carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.
First there were heavily intoxicated men in Lamphun and Samut Songkhram provinces. One of them said he got in a fight with local election workers after he couldn’t find the number of the party he wanted to vote for. Another said he had been drinking since 5pm yesterday and couldn’t make sense of things when he arrived at the polling station.
Some also misunderstood that they must separate the ballots into two parts, one of which they can bring home with them.
Those guilty of destroying voting equipment – ballots included – can be banned from politics up to 10 years.
Between Siam Paragon and CentralWorld was a subdued polling station at the Wat Pathum Wanaram School. Duangnet Phattamapornpong, a 39-year-old mother of five, her husband and their son first-time voter son Kittisak Phumiphat, 20, spent Sunday using their voice as a family.
Both mother and son said they focused on economic issues, though they voted for different parties.
“He can pick whoever he wants, and I can pick whoever I want. He has his opinions, and I have mine. Mai pen rai,” the mom said.
Kittisak urges his peers to come out and vote with less than four hours left on the clock.
“I wanna tell my friends to come and exercise their rights, so the country will be better,“ he said.
While campaigning is banned everywhere today, one netizen says he saw name cards of a Phalang Pracharat Party candidate being dumped in the streets close to a voting station on Bangkok’s Rama IV Road today. Video here.
Student activist Parit Chiwarak wears a paper bag to vote “in shame.” Parit, an outspoken critic of the junta, said he felt ashamed this election is neither free nor fair, and also criticized the Election Commission for its many mishaps.
“I’m very disappointed for waiting and calling for this election for so many years, so I can vote for the first time,” Parit wrote online. “Yet the government and the EC did not organize the election in a free, transparent and fair manner.”
The activist has said he would vote for the Pheu Thai Party, which led the government ousted five years ago in a coup.
Two men, one vote? A voter in Ubon Ratchathani told the media he went to cast his vote this morning only to be told he had already voted. A closer inspection revealed another man had used what appeared to be an ID card with his name to vote 30 minutes earlier.
Rerai Laobutsri, 39, suspected someone committed voting fraud under his name.
“I want justice. I’m born here, and I work here … I want to exercise my right to vote,” Rerai told reporters.
A police officer said he has asked election officials to file a criminal complaint to local police so they can investigate the case and find the perpetrators.
He was not allowed to cast a ballot.
Ethnic Karens line up to vote on Thailand’s northern edge, in Tak province. Officials say nearly 100 percent of the Karen community registered to vote there have already cast their ballots.
More VIPs showed up to vote, from politicians and actors to famous sportsmen.
Phalang Pracharath leader Uttama Savanayana.
Pheu Thai prime minister candidate Sudarat Keyuraphan.
Democrat chairman Abhisit Vejjajiva
Chart Pattana leader Suwat Liptapanlop
Badminton champion Ratchanok “May” Intanon
Deputy police commissioner Srivara Ransibrahmanakul and his daughter
Superstar actress Urassaya “Yaya” Sperbund
Celeb actor Nadech Kugimiya
Thai football legend Kiatisuk “Zico” Senamuang
Transparency gadfly Srisuwan Janya, with his signature finger-pointing
A former local administrator Surapol Polchim rode his horse Sam to a polling station in Nakhon Ratchasima’s Phimai district before casting his ballot.
“I’d like to encourage everyone to practice their rights in this election,” he said.
Surapol added that he wanted Sam with him on Election Day as he used to ride him to patrol his neighborhood while he was working at the office.
A blind voter is escorted to a polling station in Udon Thani. Special ballot papers printed in Braille are handed out to blind voters. They can also choose to have an official at the booths to mark the ballots on their behalf.
Police say they have arrested two men involved in a voting-buying scheme west of Bangkok in Nakhon Pathom. According to police, one suspect is a kamnan, or local administrator, named Charn Homprong. They said he was found with up to 16,000 baht in cash and a list of voters he had paid.
Another was a top district official named Kampol Permpoon, who was reportedly arrested with 2,000 baht in cash.
Both denied all allegations, police said, without identifying which party they were allegedly affiliated with.
A veteran election observer, who asked not to be named because he was not authorized to speak to the media, said some voters were unaware they needed to mark an “X” on the ballot for it to be valid. The observer added that some provided pens reportedly didn’t work.
Road accidents in Thailand are so prevalent that even polling stations aren’t immune. A car crashed into one such venue in Ratchaburi province this morning, injuring several voters.
Wachara Petchkruea, 27, said he was approaching a curve close to the polling station when he skid off it, struck a motorcycle and crashed into the voting venue. Police promptly arrested him and charged him with reckless driving resulting in injuries. Voting resumed immediately after the incident.
Lamphun city police said a man has been arrested and charged with destroying a ballot. The police said the man was drunk and tore the ballot as he was in a quarrel with local election workers after he couldn’t find the number of the party he wanted to vote for.
The first major voting irregularity was reported in Korat. A voter posted online that officials had covered up a profile of Future Forward’s candidate at the polling station, saying she had been “disqualified.” In fact, no disqualification took place.
The claim could not be independently verified.
The alleged incident came a day after pro-junta Facebook pages spread rumors that party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkij was barred from the race because he owned shares in the media. Thanathorn later posted that the news was not true, since he already gave up all his shares months ago.
เขตเลือกตั้งที่ 3 หน่วยเลือกตั้ง บ.น้ำเมา ต.ลาดบัวขาว อ.สีคิ้ว จ.นครราชสีมา เจ้าหน้าที่ประจำหน่วยเลือกตั้ง…
Asaree: The Boonwiratchaphan family said they came to a downtown polling station at the tobacco authority to exercise their rights, with different generations voting for different parties, but all with the same concern in mind – the economy.
“The past five years, Thailand has been in a terrible crisis, whether economically, politically or socially,” Srima, 31, said. “I think the party I chose will develop the country for the better.”
Srima’s 80-year old grandma Rattana interjected that she would not choose a party that had people “burning down the city.”
“It’s been terrible for the past five years. A crisis,” Rattana echoed her granddaughter about the economy. “I chose someone that will make the country peaceful.”
The generational difference won’t translate into divisions at home, both Rattana and Srima insist.
“Well, there’s disagreement. Naturally younger people want to see the country change and develop. But in our home, we stand by the idea that you can have your own political views, but that doesn’t mean we’re broken apart.”
After polls close at 5pm, all ballots will be combined with those cast in early voting and overseas elections then counted together. Counting will take place at each district office in Bangkok. They will be tabulated locally and fed to the Election Commission via a smartphone app called Rapid Report by local polling station workers.
The Election Commission has said preliminary results based on 95 percent of counted ballots will be available about four hours after polls close, or 9pm. The winners of the election should be clear at that point. However, the results will not be formally endorsed until early May, depending on whether there are any voting violations deemed to disqualify any candidates.
Although they won’t be directly published online, numerous media outlets have been linked into the vote-counting system and will share them live this evening. A live feed will also show on a large screen at the Election Commission’s headquarters.
The most-felt voter suppression today so far appears to be the weather. Rainstorms struck Ubon Ratchathani early this morning, flooding several polling stations and forcing many to stay home.
The Election Commission in Lampang also urged voters to come out and vote early as a storm is forecast to bear down later in the afternoon.
Asaree Thaitrakulpanich and Chayanit Itthipongmaetee are live from a polling station at the former Thailand Tobacco Monopoly in Bangkok.
ANFREL is one of two groups seeking to deploy monitors today. The other is a domestic group called P-Net – the People’s Network for Elections. Election observers have been routine fixtures of past polls, but this year they faced considerable resistance to participating. The foreign minister went so far as to say foreign observers would be an affront to the kingdom’s dignity. As we reported earlier this month, P-Net complained it had been denied funds and accreditation by elections officials. None of these developments fostered confidence in the integrity of the vote. On the eve of the vote, both organizations said they had been accredited at the last minute.
Two hours in, voting appears to be going smoothly in most places, though there are complaints of polling stations in Korat using unsynchronized clocks – resulting in uneven opening times. Some voters are also confused about whether they have to sign their full names or only provide a signature on their ballot booklets, as instructions seem to vary from station to station.
The Asian Network for Free Elections is fielding 34 observers today. They have set up at a hotel in downtown Bangkok and have fielded monitors to a number of provinces including Chiang Mai, Khon Kaen, Udon Thani and Ratchaburi.
Jintamas: At a rather empty polling station at Wat Noi Nang Hong in Bangkok’s Bang Phlat district, Tossaporn Noomnok, a local election worker stands by a board listing the names of voters. He said it had been very packed earlier in the morning.
“Everything has been going smoothly so far. No problems at all,” he said.
A man approached seconds later to complain that the names of his daughter and son weren’t on the rolls there. Tossaporn, who said he has managed voting at least four times, flatly told him to contact other staff inside the polling tent.
Asked if these people would get to vote, he said no.
Army chief Apirat Kongsompong votes in Bangkok, while hundreds of soldiers arrived at a polling station in the military neighborhood of Kiak Kai.
The armed forces have come under intense scrutiny from the opposition, not the least because of Gen. Apirat’s bellicose rhetoric against junta critics. There are also accusations that soldiers are being forced by their commanders to vote for a pro-junta party, though the military denies this.
Don’t even think about taking selfies while voting! The Election Commission bans taking any photos once you cross the lines into a polling station. Campaigning is also banned on Election Day, and that extends to wearing clothing that bears the logos of political parties.
“After you mark your ballot, do not take a photo of it. Don’t take a selfie with your ballot,” Election Commissioner Jaroongvith Phumma told the media yesterday. “If you want a photo to mark the occasion, please take the photo in front of your polling station.”
A temple in the capital district of Lat Phrao was turned into a voting station.
One of the top-trending hashtags on Thai Twitter this morning is #AlreadyGrownUpCanChooseForMyself, used by voters to assert their independence.
Before Thais go to the polls today, they were advised last night to vote for “good people” by His Majesty the King himself. A statement attributed to King Vajiralongkorn was read in a televised broadcast citing a famous 1969 quote from his late father, King Bhumibol.
“Please acknowledge an important matter in governance: that there are both good and bad people in our country. No one can turn everyone into good people. In order to ensure normalcy, happiness and order in the country, it is not about turning everyone into good people, but about supporting good people and letting good people rule the country, and preventing bad people from having power or causing unrest.”
It went on to say that His Majesty the King believes the message is for all Thais.
“His Majesty hereby bestows this in order to … remind everyone to apply it as their guideline, for the sake of unity, stability of the country and happiness of the people,” it said.
Mostly elderly voters were among the first in line Sunday morning in Bangkok’s Yan Nawa district.
Asaree: Preedee Rachayon, 72, says he put an X down for the party he’s always voted for – although it might differ from how the rest of his family votes.
“It’s up to them. Kids don’t really listen when you talk to them [about politics]. It’s a democracy,” he said, chuckling. “They already know who papa is voting for. So I don’t talk to them too much about it, because they won’t like it.”
Prime minister candidates take to the polls too:
Phalang Pracharath’s Prayuth Chan-ocha
Future Forward candidate Thanathorn Juangroongruangkij.
Pheu Thai’s Chadchat Sittipunt.
Celebrities are now marching into the polling stations across the country. They include actresses Pancake Khemanit and Mai Davika.
Teeranai: Like elsewhere, queues formed just minutes after polls opened at Joan of Arc School in Bangkok’s No.1 constituency – where I live.
Analysts predict it will be a tough contest here, where both leading Pheu Thai and Democrat candidates were incumbent MPs before the current govt merged their two constituencies into one.
Polls have opened nationwide. Long queues formed at many polling stations. Several well-known figures headed to their electoral stations to perform their rights, including junta leader Prayuth Chan-ocha and Future Forward Party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkij.