Friday, February 27, 2009

Surat Thani PAO by-elections forthcoming

Looks like I will again be able to see election campaigning when I am in Surat Thani in April, just like last year as reported here. The chairman of the provincial administration organization (PAO) elected on April 20 2008, Thani Thaugsuban (นายธานี เทือกสุบรรณ), has stepped down recently because be alleged of electoral fraud. The election commission (EC) considered the granting of scholarships at several schools in the province shortly before election day. As I am just reading a the book on the electoral politics in the 1990s, similar activities were described by the author, additional to the direct vote-buying by giving money to the villagers.

Looking at the election results - he won 59.3% of all votes, more than 80,000 votes more than the next candidate - I wonder if he really needed to do something like this. Being the incumbent he could already direct the funds available to the PAO during his last term, thus securing his voter basis, such a last-minute action only forced the EC to investigate the case.

I suppose the only reason why this local news made it into the nation-wide English newspapers and thus caught my attention is the fact that Thani is the younger brother of Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban, and Suthep is also investigated on alleged illegal campaigning for his brother. And he is not only a member of the cabinet, but also an executive of the Democratic Party. If found guilty, the only reason why the case will not result in a dissolution of the whole party is the fact that this harsh punishment on applies to fraud during national election, and not local ones.

I did not find yet when the by-election will take place, but it will be a by-election for the whole province. At least for the national by-elections I read that the candidate causing the by-election by his misconduct must pay the expenses, so this will be a quite expensive for him. At least he can run again, as he only received a yellow card - unlike the PAO member from Ko Samui who received a red card now.

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