No Witness of Thai’s Vote Counting
Ichal Supriadi, Advisor of the Asian Network for Free Elections:
THE general election in Thailand, Sunday, March 24, was observed by a number of international election monitoring organizations such as the Asian Network for Free Elections (Anfrel) and the Open Forum for Democracy Foundation. Established in 1997, Anfrel employs 34 observers working in the country’s 30 provinces.
Ichal Supriadi, advisor and former Executive Director of Anfrel, participated in observing the election, the first one to be held in Thailand after the 2014 coup. Ichal, holder of a master’s degree in human rights from Mahidol University, have been involved in 40 election monitoring missions in Asia since 1998.
During the voting day, Ichal observed a number of polling stations in Wang Thonglang District, Bangkok; and Bang Khun Tian, capital of the Samut Sakhon Provice. He praised the election for being well organized, but that does not mean it was free of problems. “For us, we not only monitor the voting process, but also the vote counting and, furthermore, the laws concerning them,” he said to Tempo journalist Maria Hasugian on Wednesday, March 27. Excerpt from his interview is as follows.
What is Anfrel’s monitoring result?
Thailand did well in voting organizations. Structure of the polling stations was almost the same as before: disciplined, firm, and with clear process and good security. I have followed six elections in Thailand, including the referendum, there has never been any problem.
Then where is the problem?
It was the playing field. Was it level, equal, with the same opportunity and access? I do no think so. Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha had been preparing the election since five years ago. The regulation stating that more than four party members may gather only went into effect in December last year. This alone is unbalanced. The media was overshadowed by fear of being called and sanctioned. The military or the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) could investigate and arrest people who are deemed of disturbing the situation or violating the law. The rules were somewhat loosened (ahead of the election), but the root of the problem remains (in the constitution).
What is the most crucial stage?
The vote counting. What has been happening in the past until now is that people have no knowledge of the process. For us (in Indonesia), vote tabulation is publicly displayed. There are witnesses from parties and observers. In Thailand, there is no such thing. The votes would enter the district’s office, then tabulated in a closed room with no witness. The result is directly sent to the central ECT (Election Commission of Thailand).
How do parties react towards this alleged cheating?
Cheating or not, the parties have moved on. The opposition party, Pheu Thai, have begun lobbying other parties. So have the parties backing Prayut. The parties never contest the election result. They are used to injustice, to pressure from the military. Rather than weeping over something that is unobtainable in the first place, they choose to start consolidating instead.
But that does not mean there was not any complaint of cheating, was there?
There were some members of the public who reported alleged cheating to the Election Commission. However, whether the reports are to be followed-up upon or not depends on the ECT because the complaint body resides under it, like a kind of inspectorate. Also, it takes a long time to process the alleged cheating report.
What is Anfrel pushing for?
The commission should open up the entire result of the election. Thailand is yet to provide data from each polling station. In contrast, Myanmar, which only began having elections in 2015, is already capable of holding real-time vote count and well as vote count from each polling station.