'Unusual voting' probe sought
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'Unusual voting' probe sought

Senate candidates in Bangkok cast votes in the provincial-level election at the Centara Life Government Complex Hotel & Convention Centre on Sunday. (Photo: Varuth Hirunyatheb)
Senate candidates in Bangkok cast votes in the provincial-level election at the Centara Life Government Complex Hotel & Convention Centre on Sunday. (Photo: Varuth Hirunyatheb)

Caretaker senator Somchai Swangkarn has urged the Election Commission (EC) to expedite an investigation into alleged irregularities in the weekend provincial-level Senate election after some candidates received an unusually high number of votes from their peers in Buri Ram.

A total of 23,645 candidates who passed the district-level selection process on June 9 took part in the provincial-level vote across 77 provinces on Sunday.

Altogether, 3,080 applicants were shortlisted during the process, and they will go on to vie for 200 Senate seats up for grabs in a national-level contest on June 26 at the Impact Arena in Muang Thong Thani, Nonthaburi. The election results are expected to be announced on July 2.

However, suspicions were raised when several high-profile candidates did not make it through the provincial-level round.

Sen Somchai pointed out the alleged irregularity on his Facebook page, citing information he obtained suggesting the majority of candidates in Buri Ram had not voted for themselves and instead, almost unanimously, voted for certain candidates who each ended up getting more than 20 votes.

The senator said it make no sense that candidates did not select themselves and opted for others.

"The EC must urgently investigate the matter to make sure no damage has been done," he said.

Many senatorial candidates who also failed in the Khon Kaen provincial-level race have petitioned the provincial EC office about the irregularity of the election process.

Patchara Buaphang, a candidate from professional group 15, which includes the elderly, the disabled and ethnic groups, expressed concern over the provincial-level election results.

Mr Patchara told the media that more than 20 candidates from the group did not vote for themselves or received zero votes.

He found it suspicious that a little-known elementary school teacher had scooped more district-level votes than most other candidates.

"I suspect collusion among the candidates, as the majority of the 35 candidates who moved beyond district level were teachers who have consistently received more votes than the others throughout the process," he said.

"The way more than 20 candidates did not vote for themselves raises doubts about the transparency of the election process," he said, adding he has decided to file a complaint with the EC demanding a prompt investigation.

Watchara Seesan, director of Khon Kaen provincial EC office, said the EC will follow procedure and expedite its investigations into each complaint before the national-level elections.

At the district level, there was an intra-group election in which five candidates with the highest number of votes in each group proceeded to an inter-group election. In the inter-group poll, the three candidates with the highest number of votes were shortlisted per group, or 60 across 20 groups.

The shortlisted candidates repeated a similar process at the provincial level on Sunday, but this time, during the inter-group poll, only the two candidates with the most votes in each group progress to the final national stage in which the top 10 from each of the 20 groups are selected as senators.

Mr Watchara said the EC will look into the complaints to see if the way candidates voted for other candidates rather than themselves suggested vote-rigging. Most other complaints were about questionable candidate eligibility while some candidates were allegedly placed in the wrong professional groups, he said.

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