BANGKOK, THAILAND — Thai citizens began casting their votes on Sunday in a critical election that could decide the future trajectory of the nation, amid high-security measures and the scrutiny of a significant volunteer monitoring operation.
Approximately 50 million voters have the right to vote in this election, which will determine whether Thailand continues its present trajectory or embraces radical change.
An additional two million citizens participated in early voting outside their hometowns last Sunday, with the votes delivered to the respective provinces.
The Election Commission (EC) is ready to oversee the election, according to Chairman Ittiporn Boonpracong, and has put in place measures to ensure the process runs smoothly.
Boonpracong emphasized the importance of “clean elections” with “no vote-buying, no vote-selling.”
He further explained that each eligible voter will receive two ballots – a purple one for choosing a local parliament member and a green one for selecting their preferred party.
As the country braces for potentially significant change, the choices for voters are stark: the continuation of elite rule, which critics argue has led to stark inequality or a new era with truly democratic government representatives who aim to empower citizens and lift those living in poverty.
A total of 70 parties, with 1,898 list-MP candidates and 4,781 MP candidates, are contesting this election. A new prime minister will be selected at a later date from among 63 candidates put forth by 43 parties.
Volunteer groups, such as the Internet Law Reform Dialogue (iLaw), have rallied thousands of volunteers to act as election observers, with over 33,000 signing up so far. This initiative aims to ensure transparency and integrity in the absence of live counting results announced to the public.
National police chief Pol Gen Damrongsak Kittiprapas announced that over 147,500 police officers would be deployed across nearly 95,000 polling stations to maintain law and order during the election. The police force has recently detained close to 35,900 suspects in a pre-election crackdown, with a significant number related to election offences.
In the deep South, security measures have been strengthened, particularly at polling stations, following a bomb attack on a vehicle transporting ballot boxes during the 2021 election.
The EC will report the election results in three main categories: nationwide ballot counts, results by province, and results by political party. The first update is expected by 7pm, with unofficial poll results expected to be out by 11pm.
Despite no official live counting results, the EC has permitted citizens to photograph or film the vote count, provided they do not disrupt the process. Observers are allowed to correct ballot-counting staff immediately if they notice a mistake and can file a written complaint about possible errors.
As the nation waits for the election results, all eyes are on the future of Thailand, which stands on the precipice of potential transformation.