Tambon polls hold promise
After a long wait, voters are set to be able to exercise their political rights, this time at the tambon level, the smallest but a crucial unit for politics.
The Election Commission (EC) has set the elections of Tambon Administration Organisation chairmen and members for Nov 28, with registration of candidates opened from Oct 11-15.
The forthcoming polls will add colour to local politics following years of dormancy. There are 5,300 TAOs across the country.
The highest number is in the northeastern region, with the most in Nakhon Ratchasima, altogether 243 offices, followed by Ubon Ratchathani and Si Sa Ket with 179 each.
More exciting times lie ahead, as the elections for Bangkok governor, together with city councillors, and the Pattaya municipality are to follow early next year.
All local politics came to a halt with an order issued by the now defunct National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) under Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha who staged a coup in 2014, overthrowing a civilian Pheu Thai-led government.
The Provincial Administration Office (PAO) elections were the first to be unlocked late last year.
Under the order, the TAOs, like the PAO before the Dec 20 polls, are being run by those in office before the coup. Several are associated with local influential figures.
Needless to say, after the long gap, the people are enthusiastic for local elections, with high awareness in the hope of change.
The major parties, Pheu Thai, Move Forward and Palang Pracharath, are gearing up for a big, crucial fight that may give the winners some advantage in national politics. Several regard local politics as a litmus test for success at national level.
Moreover, the Nov 28 TAO election is expected to be fierce given that the number of TAO members for each village is cut by half, from two members to one.
It's necessary that the EC learn from the past mistakes from the Dec 20 PAO elections when the turnout was 62.25%, short of the 80% target.
The EC blamed Covid-19 curbs for the lower-than-targeted turnout and also the unfortunate polling schedule that saw the election date set after a long holiday, meaning a number of voters who had used up vacation days could not afford to go back to their home provinces to cast their ballots on Dec 20.
At the same time, some political observers criticised a dull poll PR campaign by the EC the lacklustre results.
Given the fact that the Covid-19 outbreak still remains a threat, the EC is obliged to work hard to ensure polling goes well, especially with so many people looking forward to the chance to cast their vote.
More importantly, it is said that a large number of younger voters, agents for change, may be less enthusiastic with local polls as they tend to pay more interest in national-level politics, where they can pick members of parliament (MPs), without realising the importance of local politics as the ground for democracy and decentralisation.
The EC must be instrumental in fixing such misbeliefs, and do whatever it can to boost vote turnout.
It must ensure the Nov 28 polls for this small-yet-crucial political unit are truly free and fair, and avoid the PAO debacle.
Bangkok Post editorial column
These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.
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