Junta party takes lead in long-awaited Thai election, full results delayed amid reports of voided ballots in the millions

Voters at a Bangkok polling station. Photo: Teirra Kamolvattanavith/ Coconuts Media
Voters at a Bangkok polling station. Photo: Teirra Kamolvattanavith/ Coconuts Media

Thailand’s ruling junta took an unexpected lead in the country’s election yesterday — the nation’s first since 2011 — with about 94 percent of ballots counted at the time of this article’s publication. Unofficial results, originally promised to be announced last night, will be delayed until this afternoon.

Here are the unofficial results from the Election Commission (EC), updated today at 3:45am. These numbers reflect the popular vote, but will not necessarily dictate how many constituency seats each party has won.

  1. Palang Pracharath Party — 7.7 million votes
  2. Pheu Thai Party — 7.2 million votes
  3. Future Forward Party — 5.3 million votes
  4. Democratic Party — 3.3 votes
  5. Bhumjaithai Party — 3.2 votes

Though for months leading up to the election, the EC had scheduled to announce unofficial results for the 500-seat lower House of Representative last night on March 24, it suddenly backtracked on that promise yesterday.

At around 10pm last night, EC chairman Itthiporn Boonprakong suddenly declared, without explanation, that the issuance of election results will be delayed. The commission is set to hold a press conference around 2pm today.  

What is particularly concerning is the 1.9 million voided ballots that many expect to dish up disputes and disqualifications of candidates and parties over the coming days.

Khaosod reports that there were 1,500 faulty ballots from overseas voters in New Zealand alone, which officials credited to transportation delays that prevented those ballots from arriving in Thailand before the polls closed.

Divided we stand

This year’s poll pitted a royalist junta and its allies against the election-winning machine of billionaire Thaksin — who was toppled in a 2006 coup — and featured an unpredictable wave of millions of first-time voters.

The junta has pledged to rescue the kingdom from a decade-long treadmill of protests and coups.

But the unofficial tally showed a country cut between support for and opposition to the junta.

“Overall the Thai political divide we’ve had over the last 15 years, is very much there,” said Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a political scientist at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University. “It’s very deep, it’s structural, it’s raw.”

Fears of the potential for foul play ricocheted across social media as results came rolling in — a reflection of the lingering mistrust between rival camps, and disbelief that a much-pilloried junta could have won a popularity contest against Pheu Thai.

“This election is not normal,” Pheu Thai party leader Viroj Pao-In told reporters.

“The use of the state power and the use of money — they [the junta] used it a lot in this election.”

Additional reporting by AFP

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