By-Election Ordered in Chiang Mai as Pheu Thai Winner Disqualified

A woman cast a ballot March 17 at the Lat Phrao District Office in early voting before the March 24 poll.
A woman cast a ballot March 17 at the Lat Phrao District Office in early voting before the March 24 poll.

BANGKOK — A Pheu Thai candidate on Wednesday became the first election winner to be disqualified, after the Election Commission accused him of vote-buying.

Commissioner Sawaeng Boonmee announced a by-election to be held in Chiang Mai’s eighth constituency after nullifying the victory of Surapol Kiatchaiyakorn, who will be banned from running for office for a year. The commission ruled Surapol breached the election law by offering money to “a community” in exchange for votes.

Sawaeng added that the by-election will be held in May with the same set of candidates, bar Surapol, but declined to say whether it will fall before or after May 9 – the deadline for commissioners to certify the results of the March 24 elections.

Surapol said he was accused of vote-buying for hosting a merit-making ceremony at a local temple. He said he wasn’t involved in organizing the event, but that he privately gave 2,000 baht cash to a monk, adding that he had already explained himself to the commissioners and had the monk testify as his witness. Surapol said he was surprised by the news.

“I did not expect such a ruling as I had already explained everything. I also wonder why the commission appears to selectively respond to complaints against certain parties,” he said. “I however accept the decision.”

According to the election law, monks are not eligible voters. Surapol said he did not understand why giving money to a monk is considered vote-buying.

Surapol said he would propose a new candidate to run in his place. Commissioner Sawaeng however clarified later that no new candidates will be accepted in the by-election, meaning Pheu Thai Party will lose all votes from this constituency.

Results from the constituency on Election Day showed that Surapol won with 52,165 votes, followed by a Phalang Pracharath candidate who received 39,221 votes and a Future Forward candidate with 29,556 votes.