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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
08BANGKOK665 2008-03-03 08:25:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Bangkok
Cable title:  

THAIS UNENTHUSIASTICALLY ELECT HALF A SENATE

Tags:   PGOV PHUM KDEM TH 
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VZCZCXYZ0354
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBK #0665/01 0630825
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 030825Z MAR 08
FM AMEMBASSY BANGKOK
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2033
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS PRIORITY
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO PRIORITY 0448
RUEHWL/AMEMBASSY WELLINGTON PRIORITY 2213
RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL PRIORITY 4322
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING PRIORITY 5636
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA PRIORITY 8407
RHHMUNA/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC PRIORITY
					  C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BANGKOK 000665 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EAP/MLS; NSC FOR PHU

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/03/2018
TAGS: PGOV PHUM KDEM TH
SUBJECT: THAIS UNENTHUSIASTICALLY ELECT HALF A SENATE

REF: A. BANGKOK 633 (SENATOR SELECTIONS)

B. BANGKOK 84 (SENATE SELECTION BEGINS)

BANGKOK 00000665 001.2 OF 002


Classified By: Deputy Chief of Mission James F. Entwistle, reason 1.4 (
b) and (d).

SUMMARY
-------



1. (C) Thais returned to the polls on March 2 to elect 76
Senators in the 150-seat upper house of Parliament in
elections that saw a lower-than-expected voter turnout. A
high-profile committee had earlier selected the other 74
Senators. Thailand's Election Commission (ECT) blamed voter
apathy for the low turnout. A prominent NGO activist won the
highly-contested race in Bangkok, possibly indicating the
capital's voters hoped to elect someone to check the
influence of the People's Power Party-dominated lower house.
Some politically-connected and other high-profile individuals
won less contested races in other provinces in an ostensibly
non-partisan election campaign. The ECT said it had received
55 election-related complaints, 16 of them serious, and hoped
to complete investigations and certify the election results
within seven days. Although additional fraud allegations may
still surface, the elections appear to have been free and
fair. It remains to be seen, however, whether the new Senate
will remain independent and how it will interact with the
fully-elected lower house of Parliament. End summary.

THAI ELECTION REDUX


--------------------------





2. (SBU) Following the February 19 selection of 74 Senators
to the 150-seat upper house of Parliament based on the
recommendation of a high-profile committee (ref A), Thais
returned to the polls on March 2 to elect the remaining 76
Senators. Each elected Senator will represent one of the
country's 76 provinces for a six-year term. After the polls
closed, the Election Commission of Thailand (ECT) announced
that 55.9% of the electorate had voted, a figure dramatically
lower than the 74.5% turnout in the December 23 elections for
the lower house of Parliament. Turnout was exceptionally
sluggish in Bangkok, where only approximately 40% of
registered voters cast ballots. The ECT blamed the low
turnout on an electorate "bored" with politics, and at least
one ECT official reportedly faulted Senate candidates for
failing to mobilize a high turnout. (Comment: Strict
election laws dramatically circumscribed the ability of
candidates to campaign for elected Senate seats; blaming
Senate candidates for the low turnout may strike many as
unfair. End comment.)



3. (SBU) Out of the 487 candidates running nationwide, 35
competed for the single, high-profile Senate seat in Bangkok.
On March 2, the ECT released unofficial results indicating
that prominent consumer rights and anti-corruption advocate
(and close Embassy contact) Rosana Tositrakul won a landslide
victory with nearly 50% of the vote in the capital. Senate
contests in other provinces were not as highly contested. In
Phang Nga province, for example, one candidate ran unopposed.
10 Senators-elect are women, while 25 are individuals who
lost their Senate positions following the September 2006 coup
d'etat.

A NON-PARTISAN SENATE?


--------------------------





4. (SBU) The Senate elections are ostensibly non-partisan, as
registered political party members are disqualified from
being Senators, as are relatives of elected representatives.
Nevertheless, pundits felt that some Senators-elect (possibly
as many as 40 of the 76 elected Senators) benefited from the
support of or were otherwise tied to prominent political
figures. Other observers felt that name recognition played a
large role in a generally low-key election campaign. In
Chantaburi, the Senator-elect is the husband of a prominent
local government official who is seen as close to the
governing People's Power Party (PPP). In Ayuthaya, voters
elected the scion of a prominent political family. In many
other provinces, prominent business leaders and individuals

BANGKOK 00000665 002.2 OF 002


connected in some way to famous politicians won their
respective contests. One prominent human rights activist
told us on March 3 that he believed only Bangkok
Senator-elect Rosana and Pattani Senator-elect Worawit Baru,
a former National Reconciliation Commissioner, would not be
beholden to vested political interests in the new Senate.

MOSTLY FREE AND FAIR


--------------------------





5. (SBU) In Narathiwat Province, suspected insurgents
reportedly detonated a roadside bomb which injured five
government officials who were inspecting nearby polling
stations. Elsewhere in the country, there were relatively
few problems or allegations of voter fraud. On March 3, an
ECT official told us that 55 election-related complaints,
including some relating to vote-buying, had been filed thus
far. The ECT considered 16 of them serious enough to merit
further scrutiny by ECT investigatory panels. The official
indicated that the ECT would likely endorse election winners
in complaint-free constituencies by March 5. The ECT hoped
to complete the pending investigations and officially certify
all election winners by March 10.



6. (C) Comment: Vote-buying has been a problem in previous
Senate elections and additional fraud allegations may still
surface. Thus far, it appears that the government
administered the elections capably and that the electorate
has accepted the results. We will continue to urge Thai
officials to fairly investigate all allegations of vote fraud
and vote buying. On the whole, however, the elections appear
to have been free and fair, and the outcome seems to reflect
the genuine will of the Thai people.



7. (C) Comment continued: The decision to select 74 of the
150 Senators remains highly controversial. (Note: Prior to
the promulgation of the 1997 constitution, all Thai Senators
were appointed. End note.) Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej,
for example, recently indicated publicly he felt the country
should revert to a fully-elected Senate. The landslide
election of prominent activist Rosana in Bangkok indicates
that many Thai voters, at least in the capital, hope the
Senate will be an effective check on the power of the
fully-elected lower house of Parliament. Nevertheless, it
remains to be seen whether the new Senate will be as
independent as the country's constitution drafters envisioned
and whether it can remain free of partisan influence.
JOHN