Published on December 18, 2007
Almost 3 million people, or 6.5 per cent of all 45.6 million eligible voters, cast their ballots in last weekend's advance voting nation-wide - a record high and twice as many as the 2005 general election.
A total of 2,965,279 people exercised their voting right on Saturday and Sunday, according to the Election Commission (EC).
In the 2005 election, the number of early voters reached 143,153, or 41 per cent of the 348,739 registered advance voters.
This year the turnout of absentee voters was 87.8 per cent, or 1.83 million ballots. Some 1.12 million voters cast advance ballots over the weekend, EC member Prapun Naigowit said yesterday.
"Absentee and advance voters turned out in unprecedented numbers totalling about 2.9 million votes cast," he said.
Bangkok ranked first both for absentee and advance balloting. It saw 823,331 absentee votes, accounting for 91 per cent of 903,899 registered voters. For advance voting, 199,357 voters cast their ballots.
Sunday's voter turnout for Bangkok might be higher than 70 per cent because of the enthusiasm shown in the advance voting over the last weekend, city clerk Pongsakti Semsan projected yesterday.
In past elections, the turnout of Bangkok voters hovered around 60 per cent.
"The enthusiasm for advance balloting might lead to a higher turnout than has been anticipated," Ponsakti said.
For advance voting, 201,683 Bangkok residents, accounting for 4.91 per cent of 4.1 million eligible voters, cast their ballots last Saturday and Sunday.
For absentee voting, Bangkok saw a recorded turnout of 91 per cent, the highest number since the introduction of absentee votes in 1997. Of 903,889 eligible voters, 823,332 cast their ballots.
"The balloting process was satisfactory," Prapun said, noting the EC managed to make the on-time delivery of extra ballots to some polling stations that encountered shortages.
Ballot boxes for absentee and advance voting would be dispatched under tight security for counting on December 23 and political parties would be welcomed to designate representatives to assist in safeguarding the boxes, he said.
In regard to complaints about the list of eligible voters, he said many were unaware that they must reach the age of 18 in January, the cut-off date in drawing up the list.
The EC uncovered three cases of unintentional destruction of ballots in Phichit, Samut Sakhon and Bangkok's Lat Phrao district.
In Buri Ram, there was a case of violating the ban on taking photographs within the polling station. About 24 cases of violating the ban on the sale of alcoholic beverages during the balloting were reported.
Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont yesterday expressed satisfaction that the number of voters who came out to the poll in the advance election reached the target.
Surayud said the result was an indicator that the number of voters who will exercise their voting rights in the December 23 election would also be close to the target. "If a lot of voters go to the poll, the result of the election will be a public mandate and this will be a significant step in the country's history,'' he said.
He said he instructed the Interior Ministry to keep the ballot boxes safe, which will be counted with those from the December 23 election.
Deputy Prime Minister Sonthi Boonyaratglin said he was satisfied with the high turnout, attributing it to the success of the awareness campaign against vote buying.
Sonthi vowed to intensify the campaign to deter money politics and encourage the balloting on December 23.
He refused to comment on whether he would enter politics following the general election.
The Consular Department said the turnout of Thai expatriates for balloting overseas was 76 per cent, almost double the votes cast in past elections which saw no more than 40 per cent turnout.
Of 90 polling stations abroad, 72 completed the balloting process and dispatched ballot boxes back for counting in respective constituencies.
Thai expats in Los Angeles, Frankfurt, Dubai and Taiwan ranked among the top five to cast votes.
Meanwhile, Chaturon Chaisang, former leader of the disbanded Thai Rak Thai Party, warned the EC to manage the election well or ill-intentioned people may cite the failure to nullify the election result.
He warned the EC not to repeat the same mistake that happened during the public referendum for the 2007 Constitution which lacked a monitoring system.
"More than 2 million wanted to vote in the advance election, but if the ballot papers are changed, it can affect the result of the election,'' he said.
Chaturon said he was delighted with the large number of advance voters but he felt concerned that the ballot boxes may be tampered with. "I heard that some boxes are kept at police stations or military compounds,'' he said.
In a related development, Samut Sakhon Provincial Court yesterday issued a suspended one year jail term for a voter who tore her ballot paper on Sunday. The court said Arna Limcharoen did not have any bad intention but destroyed the ballot without thinking. She was fined Bt1,000 for the offence.