In 1997 constitution, section 68 stipulates that voting is compulsory by law under penalty. The failure to fulfill this duty, without notifying the authorities of the appropriate cause of this failure, is subject to the revocation of political rights as follows: (1) the right to petition an election of members of the HoR, senators, local administrators, members of the local assembly, and village and sub-district headpersons; (2) the right to be a candidate in an election of members of the HoR, senators, local administrators, members of the local assembly and; (3) the right to be a candidate in village and sub-district headpersons. This loss of political rights is for a period from the Election Day on which a voter fails to vote to the next election day of an election at any level in which this voter is eligible to vote.
According to the amended Constitution in 2011, three key organic laws were updated after final passage on 25April 2011: the law on the Election of members of the House of Representatives and Installation of Senators, the Political Parties Act, and the Election Commission Act. Little was changed in these acts except for updating the sections that related to the changes in the numbers of constituency and party list MPs and the manner in which those would be chosen.
The laws, as Thai electoral laws have tended to be, were comprehensive and detailed for most areas related to the election, a fact consistent with how Thai authorities have historically approached organizing elections. The ECT has a broad mandate that incorporates investigations and adjudications as well as election administration, and is empowered to severely punish election violations with, in the most serious cases, jailing candidates and dissolving entire political parties. There exists a mechanism for complaints and appeals of ECT decisions but the fact that the ECT has the power to adjudicate is unusual since most cases of such magnitude are usually processed through a full trial setting where the defendant has the full range of rights and protections afforded them.
Restrictions on campaigning are highly detailed, regulating everything down to the size and number of posters allowed and which kinds of organizations are allowed to organize campaign events. Where the election law did not specify particular elements of campaign restrictions, regulations issued by relevant bodies complemented the election law.
A prominent regulation from the ECT, and one widely believed to be disregarded by almost all candidates, related to campaign spending. Since the election law did not specify campaign limits, the ECT decided to limit candidates spending to no more than 1.5 million baht per campaign and issued the appropriate regulations to this effect a few weeks after the Election Date was set.
The strict regulations and stern penalties for violations available to the ECT added to the atmosphere of both impunity and paranoia that dominated before and after the election. Impunity to regulations such as the campaign finance regulation and paranoia when it came to things like certifying candidates when, for example, the ECT delayed certification of then PM candidate Yingluck after the election. The possibility of party dissolution and mass disqualification of candidates was raised and many speculated/feared that, if the election was very close, the ECT could intervene to disqualify a sizeable number of candidates from one side to tip the election to the election’s losing party. Fortunately, this scenario never played out and fears of such intervention proved unfounded.
The Absence of Regulations Regarding Excess Ballots
The Electoral Laws of Thailand do not stipulate the percentage of excess ballots allowed to be printed by the ECT. This is good, from the ECT’s standpoint, because it allows for maximum flexibility for the ECT to print however many them deem appropriate. This can create problems however when/if the ECT prints more than is absolutely necessary and causes the perceived legitimacy of the electoral body or even the election itself to be weakened thanks to excess ballot printing. The Electoral law of Thailand does not provide for a voter to be given a replacement ballot in the event that they spoil their vote. Given this to be the case, it would imply that the number of ballot papers printed need not be substantially more than the number of registered voters. This however has not been the case for this election or previous ones where many millions of extra ballots are printed. ANFREL recommends that Thailand explore developing guidelines over how many excess ballots can be printed by the ECT. The full accounting of the excess ballot issue in this election is found later in this report in the section on Election Administration.
According to the Thai constitution, insanity, mental infirmity, Buddhist priests, monks or clergy, detention by a court-issued warrant or legal order are deprived to vote.
Buddhist clergy are unfortunately not the only citizens left unable to vote. Whereas advanced voting is available to effectively give franchise to voters who otherwise might not be able to exercise their right to vote on Election Day, the system does not make provisions for hospitalized voters or voters in detention.
PDF : Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand B.E. 2559 (2016) enacted on 6 April, 2017 (unofficial translation)
PDF : Draft Constitution 2016
PDF : Thailand’s Constitution of 2007 (Constitute Project: 2015)
PDF : Thailand: Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand Amendment (No. 2) B.E. 2554 (2011)
PDF : The Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand 1997: A Blueprint for Participatory Democracy (The Asia Foundation: Working Paper# 8, 1998)
Organic Acts on Elections
PDF : Thailand: Organic Act on the Election Commission B.E. 2550 (2011) (IFES)
PDF : Organic Act on the Election of members of the House of Representatives and the Installation of Senators, B.E. 2550 (2008) (ThaiLaws.com)
PDF : Organic Act on Political Parties B.E. 2550 (2007) (IFES)
PDF : Organic Act on the Election of Members of the House of Representatives and Senators, B.E. 2541 (1998)