Local polls key for change
After a long delay, Thailand is to hold local elections across the country on Dec 20. These are the first in six or seven years after the then military regime, the National Peace and Order Council under Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, banned all political activities after the 2014 coup, putting all 98,940 local administrators into deep freeze.
According to the Election Commission (EC), 8,521 candidates registered for the Dec 20 elections in 76 provinces.
Among them, 338 are vying to become Provincial Administration Organisation (PAO) heads, and 8,186 are competing to become PAO members.
Buri Ram is the province with highest number of contestants at 352 -- eight for the top PAO position and 344 for members.
Phetchaburi is the province with the lowest number with only 34 contestants -- one for PAO head and 33 for PAO members.
Initially, there was an expectation that vote turnout for the local elections would be exceptionally high given the absence of polls for so long. In theory, after such a freeze, eligible voters would want to see change.
It's believed that voter turnout for Dec 20 could reach 90%, higher than the normal rate of 70-80%.
It's expected that the younger generation, in particular, will exercise their voting rights in force as judging from national politics, they are a group with strong political awareness.
However, it seems the contests are already struggling and lacking in energy. To start with, it seems there are not as many campaign posters as there should be. This is probably because the contestants are afraid their spending, through these posters, may exceed legal limits.
Moreover, the EC refuses to arrange advance voting, arguing there was no such practice in past polls.
But this time the election date, Dec 20, is too close to the long weekend in the festive season which means some voters, especially those living in Bangkok, may not be able to go back to their home provinces to cast ballots on Dec 20.
It should be noted that the country is in a special situation with a vicious political conflict between those with different stances. All candidates will have to tread with care as a mistake might result in party dissolution.
For this reason, some contestants have chosen to steer clear of the divide, detaching themselves from parties, and instead running as independent candidates, to avoid unfavourable side effects.
Thr Progressive Movement under Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, former leader of the now-defunct Future Forward Party (FFP) may have reason to keep a low profile as the group has been the target for opponents that are close to the governing coalition. Offences would have a severe result.
In addition, the EC has set tight rules regarding online campaigns, with its e-war room closely monitoring election campaigning and some political candidates.
However, all voters must be aware that the PAO elections are important for local development in every aspect, including education. PAOs with advanced thinking and visions for the country's development are needed.
A strong democracy at the local level is the ideal foundation for the system.
With regard to this, the new generation should be active so they can be part of the change.
It would be good to begin with making the forthcoming elections as fair and transparent as possible, as local politics is the root of democracy.
Bangkok Post editorial column
These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.
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