Vote buying

26 06 2011

The mantra of the mainstream media on elections has long been the often justifiable rant about vote buying. The idea is – as the People’s Alliance for Democracy was keen to observe – voters don’t make a real choice. These ignorant people – seen to be mostly rural dwellers – are paid to vote by the party with the most loot. This went along with the claim that rural voters were simply ignorant.

These claims, and the vote buying behind them, have done much to undermine the legitimacy of electoral processes in Thailand.

The Bangkok Post has a lead story that predicts huge vote buying in this election (which begins Sunday for advance voters). Its evidence for the claim is pretty thin. PPT should immediately add that we are not claiming there will be no vote buying. We are saying look at the Post’s evidence.

The Post points to previous elections and vote buying, but is not specific. It cites some unnamed canvassers and even an anonymous “expert.” Its real evidence is a very recent poll by NIDA where the Post headlines the result that “18.7% of respondents have been exposed to electoral fraud.” That’s almost a fifth of voters! And there’s still a week to go!

And yet the poll in fact has it that only “5.27% said they had experienced it [electoral fraud] first-hand…”.

That’s quite a difference, and we aren’t sure that “vote buying” and “electoral fraud” amount to the same thing for the poll. PPT can’t check as there is no poll listed at NIDA’s site for last Friday (the Post’s reference) at present.

We can’t help wondering if this narrative on vote buying shouldn’t be balanced by another on the venality of the military as it daily intervenes in political and electoral matters. What of the role of business? What of the huge and blatant “policy corruption” of the current regime? What of the endless “fixing” of the electoral rules since the 2006 military coup? What of the alleged bias of the Electoral Commission? Complaints about “faulty” ballot papers are simply ignored or swept aside.

Why don’t these issues loom at least as large as vote buying in a story about elections and fraud? It is probably because class acts like voiding elections and dissolving parties depend largely on playing the vote-buying card.





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