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ASEAN ANALYSIS  26 July 2010

The Thai election

By David Swartzentruber
AseanAffairs   26 July 2010

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On Sunday, July 25, the first election in Thailand since the red-shirt rally was dispersed May 19 was held in Bangkok The election was held to fill an empty seat left vacant when the incumbent Member of Parliament died. The most unusual aspect of the election was that the main candidate of the opposition Pheu Thai party, Korkaew Pikulthong, had to campaign from a jail cell.

Mr. Korkaew was one of the fiery red shirt leaders and speakers, who is in jail on terrorism charges. The penalty for these charges could be death.

The ruling Democrat party candidate and eventual winner was Bangkok City Clerk Panich Vikitsreth. He took 52.7 percent of the vote in Constituency 6, while Korkaew garnered 40.9 percent.

Mr. Panich was not well-known to constituency voters but campaigned on local issues, such as better transportation to the city center, while Mr. Korkaew rehashed the issues the red shirts have with the Democrat-run government.

The outcome of this election was seen by the media and political observers in Thailand as an indicator of the political climate in Thailand following the dramatic events of the red shirts’ March-April-May siege. That siege ended in bloodshed and arson counterattacks when it was quashed by the Thai army.

A Democrat loss might have indicated a swelling of support for the red-shirt movement and could have had a destabilizing effect on the present government. But this did not occur.

This should be the last election before a national election is required by the end of 2011.

However, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said a new election could be held earlier if conditions remain stable in the country.

The ongoing developments in Thailand are: committees on reconciliation and reform continue meeting and the Pheu Thai Party said it would join in the reconciliation process after first boycotting it, a committee on reforming the police has also kicked off and two lawsuits over allegedly improper campaign contributions to the Democrat Party have yet to be heard by the Constitution Court. The first case is expected to be decided by October.

A guilty finding in either of the two lawsuits could force the Democrat (Thailand’s oldest party) Party to be disbanded and its leaders, including Prime Minster Abhisit Vejjajiva, banned from politics for five years.

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