Agam's Gecko
Sunday, August 19, 2007

itizens of the Kingdom today had their first ever direct participation in accepting, or rejecting a draft constitution. There have been 17 (or 18, depending who's counting) constitutions since the end of absolute monarchy in 1932 -- yet this is the first time one has been put to the people in a nationwide referendum.

Polling places closed about 3 hours ago, and exit poll information was released immediately. The respected Suan Dusit poll has the constitution passing with about 68% in favour, while the Ramkhamhaeng University poll puts the number at 60%. The Suan Dusit poll had breakdowns by region, with Bangkok giving assent by about 75%, North and Central regions closely following the national figures, the South with almost 80% in favour, and the North East region (recognised as ousted PM Thaksin's strong area) voting in favour by about 60%-40%.

However, the final results will not necessarily reflect exit polls. As the early counting takes place (at this writing, about 5.5 million have been counted, of an expected 27 million votes cast), many provinces are seeing a close race while the North East is showing a 60% rejection, while the North is evenly split. See a live update of returns from The Nation: Live Score of National Referendum 2007. [*link updated*]

There was one terrorist bombing in the South today, injuring a villager and a soldier in Narathiwat. The bomb was placed in a market near a polling station, and went off around noon. That qualifies it as a very quiet day down south -- in the context of the past few months of daily multiple attacks.

For some background to this democratic exercise, and the reasons for this historic day in Thailand's history, see this article at Pajamas Media, from their new "Bangkok Desk." Finally, some foreign media who get it.

I've written previously that I viewed the coup last year as a necessary evil -- the only conceivable way out of an untenable situation. Parliament was dissolved, Thaksin's snap election of the previous April was ruled illegal, and the sleazy tycoon determined to continue wielding power regardless. Just like when your computer system hangs, there was nothing left but to reboot. Thailand is one of the very few countries (if not the only country, due to the beloved royal institution) which could possibly pull this off -- a military coup followed by restoration of democracy within a year (give or take a little).

If the constitution passes, and is signed into law by His Majesty by the end of this month, we can say the "operating system" has been loaded in just 11 months. "Now loading your preferences," and full democratic elections by December. Not too bad.


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