Monday, August 20, 2007
THAILAND RATIFIES CONSTITUTION ... BARELY
s I and the voting member of my family watched the vote count progress last night, one thing was already obvious by early evening. The exit polls, reported immediately after the 4 pm closure of voting booths across the Kingdom, had been wrong. As more results came in (especially from the most populous North East), we watched as the overall acceptance rate declined to 60%, and below. It was nearly midnight when the last TV network wrapped up its referendum night special, with the acceptance standing at just over 56%, and about 96% of the votes counted.
The map at left gives some idea of how deeply divided this country is, but it's still too general a picture. I've tried all morning to find a rendering of results similar to that used on T-ITV last night, but with no luck. They had the best graphic display of returns, I thought, with their lower-screen bar cycling through each province's result showing not only the figures and percentages, but a green/red bar showing the balance graphically. Also displayed was a map, similar to this one but showing the green/red status of each province (there are 76). The map was further refined by three gradations of each colour, showing where were the close races and where were the landslides.
That rendering of results clearly showed how divided the country is, with the central region mostly a pale green, the south dark green, and two large pockets of deep red up north -- a big chunk of Isaan (northeast) -- but not all of it -- and another in the north. It looked much like a rosebush with two distinct blooms on top.
The Election Commission will forward official results to the Constitution Drafting Committee this afternoon at 5 pm. It looks like the election will be set for December 16. Latest unofficial results can be found here (if you can read Thai), and the Nation's "Live Score" in English can now be found here. (The link I provided to this yesterday has stopped working this afternoon, and I found this alternate location for it. Also updated in previous post.) You can see each provincial result there by count -- work out the percentages by yourself. As it stands, unofficially, the result overall was about 57% - 41% (about 2% were invalid).
The PJM backgrounder I linked yesterday also helpfully provided an official English translation of the 2550 Rattathamanoon ("Constitution" - 2550 is the current year in the Thai calendar). For anyone interested, here it is (pdf file, 970 kb).
Turnout yesterday was lower than hoped, only about 57% of eligible voters, or around 25 million. Now the question becomes whether or not the anti-charter groups will be encouraged by the closer-than-expected result and keep up their paid-mob demonstrations in the capital, or perhaps abide by the assertion of the leader of the ex-Thai Rak Thai party (now the Thai Rak Thai "Group") last night that they would accept the people's decision. We'll see.
It's doubtful that the 41% accurately reflects continuing support for TRT or Thaksin, and some anti-charter spokespersons have been making that point today themselves. The ongoing corruption trials (from which he has now legally been declared a fugitive) won't help his or his ex-party's image in the coming months. They plan to reconstitute themselves as the "Peoples Power Party" or some such, to contest the December elections. Again, we'll see how that turns out for them.
In the meantime, I'm looking forward to a rip roarin', freewheelin' Thai-style election campaign. Then let's see the hand-wringing international media come over here and tell us that democracy's dead!