BANGKOK — The preliminary election results released Thursday by officials left the nation lost in mathematical wonders as little explanation was given to the many inconsistencies.
The Election Commission blamed human errors in each polling station as it scrambled to explain discrepancies discovered in numbers from the unofficial report of Sunday’s voting results and those in prior reports. The body has fallen in hot water as public dissatisfaction is running high by case after case of alleged election irregularities.
“Everything was going smoothly. The election procedure was monitored by observers … from the beginning to the end,” head commissioner Jarungvith Phumma said.
After the report was released, many appeared to be baffled about the drastic increase of voter turnout from about 66 percent – when about 93 percent of ballots had been counted – to nearly 75 percent according to yesterday’s report, including differences in reported numbers of eligible voters before and after the election, and voter turnout not matching the number of used ballots.
During another press conference this afternoon, commissioner Krit Urwongse said commission released the numbers as they were reported from each polling station, suggesting the confusing numbers were caused by mistakes of local election officials.
He said the number of eligible voters reported Sunday night (51,205,624) was less than the number in yesterday’s report (51,239,638) because some polling stations could not submit a total number of voters in that constituencies in time, insisting that the latter number is the correct one.
In yesterday’s report, the voter turnout was 38,268,375. The total number of ballots used were however a little fewer at 38,268,366. The commission has said the difference could have been caused by voters leaving polling stations after registering but not casting their ballots.
But many were skeptical because of the voting procedures. Voters had to queue outside their designated polling station. Once inside, they had to show their ID card to officials for registration. They then had to immediately sign a ballot that would be folded and put in an envelop in front of them, which they could take into a booth and mark right away.
Krit said today that inaccuracies could have also been caused by the work of local officials, adding that this proved the commission’s transparency.
“Looking at this from another perspective, it showed that the commission did not adjust anything. We reported the numbers as we received them,” he said.
He added that the body has started an investigation to identify polling stations that reported inaccurate numbers.
The commission offered limited explanations to reporters’ questions yesterday after the discrepancies were discovered. Repeated inconsistencies in numbers triggered outrage from the public, already troubled by how the poll was handled.
On Twitter last night, #NewBallotsBornInBoxes hit the No. 1 trending hashtag in Thailand after Pheu Thai prime minister candidate Sudarat Keyuraphan used it in her online post to complain about the inconsistent numbers.
“After polls closed on March 24, the [commission] said at 9:30pm that the voter turnout was 65.96 percent, or 33,775,230. On March 28 at 2:50pm, the [commission] said the voter turnout had increased to 74.69 percent, or 38,268,375. There have been 4,493,145 #NewBallotsBornInBoxes in four days,” she wrote.
Amused netizens took that up, suggesting ballots may be able to procreate by themselves.
“After finishing the election of Thailand for 4 days, the ballots can fuck each other and give birth [to] many baby ballots, more than 4,000,000 in 4 days. Amazing!!!!” @Pharaoh_888 tweeted.
However, the turnout announced on election night was not based on a complete ballot count, and the unlikely increase shouldn’t be calculated with a simple subtraction as Sudarat suggested.
The commission yesterday insisted there was no error, telling media that the 66-percent voter turnout announced Sunday night was based on a tally that did not include about 2.7 million of advanced ballots.
However, the nearly 10 percent increase is still unlikely when calculated from that number.
A livestream feed on the commission’s Facebook page with a Monday morning timestamp, also showed another set of numbers as 94 percent of the ballots had been counted. In the video, the number of eligible voters was 51,035,392 and the voter turnout was 35,409,952. The combined number of ballots used – 35,409,936 – also differed from the turnout.
While a report handed directly to the media was suddenly removed yesterday afternoon, another report with a different web address remains accessible on the commission’s website. An official in charge today said the first report was removed due to “technical errors,” adding that there were no differences between the two.
Following numerous alleged irregularities and errors in the results and the handling of ballots, the student councils of Thammasat, Chulalongkorn, Chiang Mai and Khon Kaen universities issued separate statements calling the commission to take responsibility.
The commission’s efficiency has been in doubt since before Election Day, and public confidence seemed to continue dropping in recent days. An activist launched a petition to relieve the commission. An online petition on Change.org to oust the body started the day after the election had more than 800,000 people signed up as of Friday afternoon.
Update: This article has been updated with the Election Commission’s statement explaining the inconsistent numbers.