Voters foil TRT again
Ten ruling party candidates fail to clear minimum 20%; Election Commission says third round unlikely
Vendors in Songkhla tear up their ballot papers at a polling station in the southern province yesterday. A total of 17 people destroyed their ballot papers during the second round of voting for the House of Representatives yesterday.
At least 10 House seats were expected to remain unoccupied as Thai Rak Thai candidates running unopposed in southern constituencies failed to win the minimum 20 per cent of votes required in yesterday's second round of voting, which was marred by displays of civil disobedience.
However, the Election Commission is unlikely to hold a third round of voting to fill the 500 seats in the Lower House, the agency's secretary-general, Ekkachai Warunprapha, said yesterday.
He said if there were a few constituencies where candidates running uncontested failed to win the minimum 20 per cent of support from all eligible voters - and he expected no more than 10 such constituencies - the EC might go ahead with endorsing the available election winners and consider its job done.
He said the agency would let the political parties involved consult the Constitution Court about convening the House of Representatives without all the seats filled.
"The House could convene first and then by-elections could be held later to fill the empty seats," he said.
Ekkachai said the EC expected no MPs to be elected in 10 constituencies of seven southern provinces - Nakhon Si Thammarat, Surat Thani, Songkhla, Trang, Chumphon, Pattani and Phang Nga. Thai Rak Thai candidates ran unopposed in those constituencies and were unlikely to win the minimum 20 per cent of constituent votes.
Caretaker Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra yesterday said it would depend on the "rule keepers" whether the House of Representatives would convene, even though not all the seats were filled. He was apparently referring to the election agency.
In theory, the Lower House cannot convene to name a new prime minister until all 500 seats are filled. Legal experts have said the election authorities could seek permission from the Constitution Court to have the House opened with some of the seats left empty.
Thai Rak Thai's Sophon Phetsawang, former deputy House speaker, said yesterday he believed the House could convene as long as more than half the seats were filled. He cited a constitutional clause that says half the Lower House forms a quorum for a House meeting.
Thai Rak Thai candidates lost in Phetchaburi and Prachuap Khiri Khan yesterday to candidates from smaller political parties.
Unofficial results last night showed that Pornjanat Srirattananon from the Khonkhoplodnee Party got more than 20,000 votes, compared to about 14,000 for Thai Rak Thai's Rajasak Klaiklueng, in Phetchaburi's Constituency 1.
In Prachuap Khiri Khan, Tossanet Thienthes from the Prachakorn Thai Party won more than 21,000 votes while Thai Rak Thai's Pradit Yamanand got less than 14,000.
In yesterday's polls, apart from several cases of ballot-paper tearing, many voters protested by filling in the "no vote" box.
Election officials at five polling stations in Nakhon Si Thammarat did not show up to work yesterday as local authorities had insufficient money to pay them, a senior local election official said.
Thongchai Wannathanapisit, the province's election director, said new voting would be held for those polling stations later this week.
By-elections in four districts of Songkhla failed to take place because polling officials refused to work citing safety concerns, EC official Ruengrog Jomsueb said. "We are considering having the by-elections on Monday or Tuesday in these four districts," he said.
Turnout was low in the South yesterday for the second round of voting, with many people saying they had lost interest because there had been too many elections.
Voting was held in 40 constituencies in 17 provinces, but the 14 provinces in the South saw a large number of voters shunning the polling stations.
In Narathiwat, some residents said they were bored by the election while others said they were concerned about their safety and feared they might be attacked at ballot stations.
The atmosphere in Pattani was subdued with police and soldiers deployed at polling stations to provide security.
In Satun, the Election Commission expected 60 per cent of eligible voters to cast ballots, but there was little excitement among those who showed up at the polls.
Less than 50 per cent of eligible voters cast ballots in Krabi. Residents of the province said they were tired of elections. The province's election office estimated turnout might be 10 per cent lower than it was for the April 2 election.
Songkhla's election authorities said less than 60 per cent of eligible voters showed up.
Turnout in Phang Nga was also low, with many residents describing the election as boring.