Boundaries managed III

1 12 2018

The complaints about the Election Commission’s (re)drawing of electoral constituency boundaries continue:

Political parties are angry about a redrawn electoral map of Thailand they say has been gerrymandered to boost the prospects of pro-junta parties.

Both major political parties, Pheu Thai and Democrat, said the new constituency map revealed Thursday increases the fortunes of parties such as Palang Pracharat Party – which supports the military government – in several provinces.

The two major parties of the past decade say this, Puea Thai and the Democrat Party: “They say the new voting divisions published in the Royal Gazette show constituencies suspiciously redrawn in a number of provinces, particularly Ubon Ratchathani, Sukhothai and Nakhon Ratchasima.” Puea Thai’s Phumtham Wechayachai said “some districts were split into four or five constituencies after local politicians there defected to [the] Palang Pracharat [Party of the junta] in those provinces.”

One Democrat Party member went further, declaring the EC commissioners were cheating for the junta’s parties.

Meanwhile, as well as going full Sgt Schultz – I know nothing, nothing!The Dictator used a curse word to attack the media for daring to ask questions and he condemned politicians for complaining. He also lied, saying, “I am not on any side and I did not make any order…”. Both statements are so obviously untrue that it seems Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha believes Thailand’s electorate is as malleable as clay and about as bright as a bucket of clay.

PPT sees this as just one more admission of election rigging. But there’s been so many of these efforts and admissions that it is normalized. In fact, the electorate is not thick and knows exactly what the junta is up to. The problem is that the military thugs have all the power in their own hands and so no one seems able to prevent this blatant effort to steal the “election.”

At least the politicians are now talking about the massive fraud. On the boundaries, Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva said “the new boundaries are unjustified and undermine the both the EC’s credibility and the election process itself.” He added that “several constituencies have not been redrawn in line with the law…”.

So the junta and its puppet EC have cheated and may have broken the law. But as Abhisit observed, “nothing could be done about it because the EC has been given immunity by the NCPO’s [Article 44] order.”

Rubbery funds

1 12 2018

Rice farmers and rubber planters are quite different. In the junta’s politics, rubber planters are seen as the most loyal of junta supporters. Throughout its tenure following the illegal 2014 coup, the junta has been concerned about the price of rubber and the political impact of falling prices. Part of the reason for this political position has to do with the support given by planters to the anti-democrats in 2013-14, Some of our earlier posts on support for rubber planters are here, here and here.

With an “election” to be stolen-won, the Bangkok Post reports that yet another “financial package aimed at assisting rubber farmers and stemming the tumbling price of rubber” is being doled out.

Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Grisada Boonrach sounded not unlike previous elected governments as he earlier was offering 3000 baht a rai in support. aid the first measure will help rubber farmers troubled by the depressed prices of rubber. That now seems to be “a grant of 1,800 baht per rai, not exceeding 15 rai each … adding that the measure is intended to help farmers offset the cost of living.” (We have to say that we are unsure if these two figures are about different schemes or need to be added together or one replaces the other.)

The 1800 baht is divided between land owners and tappers, with a budget of “17.5-billion-baht budget to support the scheme.” It supports “999,065 rubber farm owners and 304,266 tappers…”.

A second measure to boost the price of rubber is to use it in “the construction of roads using asphalt mixed with rubber latex.” That scheme costs “92.3 billion baht would be budgeted by local administrative organisations to fund this scheme.” Of that, 16.3 billion is for latex.

The ministry is also advancing credit of 5 billion baht that “will be extended to support rubber processing for export…” and is looking at supporting farmers out of rubber planting.

There’s a lot of billions there. How much does a vote cost?

Boundaries managed II

30 11 2018

As a note to our previous post, where we wondered about complaints on boundaries, the Election Commission reports that it received 98 complaints it received across 33 provinces. Somehow we missed all of this amidst the other rigging going on. Sorry.

The EC has now had its “revised” boundaries published. What’s been the reaction?

If you are a Bangkok Post reader, you might think that only the Puea Thai Party has made a quiet complaint. One of its reports refers to “Subdued responses,” while this is modified a bit in a later report would have its readers believe that only the Puea Thai Party and an academic expressed mild concerns.

The Nation, however, tells its readers that “politicians from major political parties yesterday cried foul at the constituency mapping done by the Election Commission (EC), claiming that a particular party was favoured through alleged gerrymandering.”

It refers to this as an “uproar.”

The first politician cited in the report is from the Democrat Party. Former Sukhothai MP Sampan Tangbenjapol reckoned that the EC had come up with an “unforeseen electoral map” based on a new option not “previously offered only three choices for voters and candidates to see.” Sampan lamented that this is just the beginning of the “election,” but “already there’s this lack of transparency.” Sampan complained of “some irregularities in the new drawing.”

He urged “voters not to yield to corrupt representatives and to stand up against dictatorship in this election.”

Puea Thai’s Prayut Siriphanit “admitted that the maps could impact Pheu Thai candidates in those [reallocated NE] areas.”

Chaturon Chaisang complained that the junta order to the EC meant opaque decision-making:

The order was made even though the agency had already completed the task, with constituency boundaries in line with the opinions offered by local voters and MP candidates.

“The new drawings were done behind closed doors. A handful of people just proposed a new option via some expressway and they miraculously got what they’d asked for,” Chaturon wrote on Facebook. “So, they are just going to take advantage over others until the last minute.”

Redrawing boundaries is described as a “serious threat for political parties. If a party’s stronghold is separated into two constituencies, for example, that party could lose the election in one or both of those constituencies.”

Boundaries managed I

29 11 2018

While the Election Commission’s electoral constituency boundary setting remains totally opaque, as the Bangkok Post reports, it is done, if not officially announced.

Unsurprisingly and revealingly, it was the junta’s Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam who made the announcement, a few days after the EC reported that it was finished (again).

The official announcement will be via the Royal Gazette, with Wissanu declaring that no discussion was allowed. He said if someone disagreed, “they will have to file a complaint with the Administrative Court…”.

He also “brushed aside gerrymandering claims” saying the junta intervened to give “the EC more time to address complaints from parties and voters…”. Funny that, we didn’t notice the earlier release of draft constituencies or of complaints. Maybe we just missed that “news.”

The Nation adds to this mystery, reporting that the “deputy PM added that the EC had earlier informed the ruling National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) about complaints from politicians related to the redrawing of constituencies. However, he said, the documents have not been unveiled and he has no details about the matter.”

In any case, what is clear is that the junta “issued an order legalising any decision on constituency mapping by the EC, no matter whether it is in line with existing laws.”

Done and dusted?

29 11 2018

According to an opinion piece in The Nation, the military junta’s work on rigging the election is done and dusted.

Not unlike Soonruth Bunyamanee at the Bangkok Post, the unnamed author appears to have suddenly realized that the “election” is rigged, saying:

No one should have any doubts about Prayut Chan-o-cha’s future political path. Reading between the lines of his statements, it’s now plain that the function of the coming election is to legitimise and extend the general’s stay in power.

Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha has been given a free pass: “He has the backing of the junta-sponsored Constitution, which allows him to retain his post as prime minister without receiving a single vote from the people.”

Prayuth has even been bragging about this: “I talked to the legal team: I don’t need to be a member or anything…”. He can choose later which party is “honored” to make him premier.

It will be one of the devil parties, despite the fact that “… Prayut wants to be viewed as an angelic presence, hovering above the evil election fray before eventually incarnating when the winners invite him to rule the country.”

This “angelic” position will also mean that Gen Prayuth as PM can “ignore whatever campaign policies and promises are made to voters by parties.” In other words, any campaigning by the devil parties is a lie because the General-cum-new/old-PM can do whatever he wants.

As the author puts it, the “votes of Thais will be rendered meaningless.”

Further, the “hands of the people have already been tied ahead of the election. The junta’s 20-year strategic plan offers parties a stark choice: toe its policy line or be thrown out of government.”

What can Thais do in such a powerless position caused by an unfree and unfair election?

The author suggests that all that the junta’s devil parties will “win,” and the only thing left is that “Thais still have power of a protest vote.”

The recommendation is to vote against devil parties, including the Democrat Party, so as to “pull the country in a direction away from the military-backed and authoritarian regime of the last four years.”

Scam senate selection

27 11 2018

Both the Bangkok Post and The Nation report on the scam Senate and its first day of seeking “applications.” Each report says that with Election Commission officials eagerly awaiting self-nominations, it was an exceptionally quiet day, with little interest from just about everyone.

Self-applications close on Friday afternoon.

No doubt, some readers will be asking what this is about. Under the military junta’s rigging of the whole process of creating a Thaksin Shinawatra-proof electoral and constitutional system, the current sham process is for those who wish to nominate as and “an independent candidate” for the new Senate and for those who want to “represent” one of the junta-selected functional constituencies.

How is this being done? In case readers have forgotten (as we had), go to Article 269 of the junta’s 2017 constitution, one of the so-called transitory provisions, which for five years increases the size of the Senate from 200 to 250 and makes every single senator a junta selection.

It is a complicated process that involves a “Senator Selection Committee consisting of not fewer than nine but not exceeding twelve persons appointed by the National Council for Peace and Order.” That junta committee nominates “no more than four hundred persons … and … present the list of names to the National Council for Peace and Order.”

The names to the junta’s vetting committee come from the current nomination process, covered by Article 107 of the constitution:

The division of groups shall be made in a way which enables every person having the right to apply for selection to belong to any one group. The division of groups, number of groups, and qualifications of a person in each group, the application and acceptance of application, the rules and procedures for selection among themselves, the acceptance of the selection, the number of Senators selected from each group, the listing of reserve candidates, the elevation of persons from the reserve list to fill the vacancy, and any other measures necessary to enable the selection among themselves to proceed honestly and justly, shall be in accordance with the Organic Act on Installation of Senators.

Let’s skip the reciting of the Organic Law for the moment, for in the end, The junta selects 50 and another 50 as “reserves” or “alternates.” This same junta then selects another 194 from the list of 400 names and then adds:

the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Defence, the Supreme Commander, the Commander-in-Chief of the Royal Thai Army, the Commander-in-Chief of the Royal Thai Navy, the Commander-in-Chief of the Royal Thai Air Force and the Commissioner-General of the Royal Thai Police, totaling two hundred and fifty persons.

If you are still with us, the junta has thereby selected 250 of the total of, well, 250. The wrinkle in this is the current process of nomination and self-nomination for the original list of 400, of whom 244 get a Senate position. The process after nomination  – for which there’s a long list of exclusions and requirements – begins at the amphur level and has vetting and selection at provincial and national level, all controlled by officials, before being considered by the junta’s selection committee.

In other words, the whole process is contrived, controlled and rigged by the junta so that it fills the Senate with its own people. For all of the complications involved in not electing senators, the outcome is going to be a chamber that reflects the junta and its desires and that will behave exactly like the puppet National Legislative Assembly. That is, as a chamber of mechanical Japanese lucky cats, all sticking their paws up at the same time, with the time being dictated by the junta.

Lucky for the junta but unlucky for the country.

Threatening the military

26 11 2018

Hooray for the Future Forward Party. They are prepared to take on the most powerful of Thailand’s political parties: the military.

The FFP has “vowed to cut the military budget and reduce the number of generals in the army…”. FFP secretary-general Piyabutr Saengkanokkul reckons that “[i]n today’s world, no one engages in wars any more…”.

That’s not quite true, but the notion of punishing the politicized military is a great idea.

What is more important is bringing the military under civilian control. Whatever its budget, civilian control is the critical means of depoliticization.