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Cablegate: Frequently Asked Questions About the Upcoming Thai Election

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SUBJECT: FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT THE UPCOMING THAI ELECTION

REF: A. BANGKOK 5749 (ELECTION PLAYBILL)
B. BANGKOK 5739 (ELECTION MONITORING)

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(SBU/NOFORN) Following are post's responses to some of the
frequently asked questions about the upcoming Thai election.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Q: Who will be up for election on December 23?

A: The December 23 election is for the 480-member House of
Representatives. Of these, 400 will be elected to
constituency-based seats, and 80 will be elected by votes for
regional party lists. Over 4,000 people are registered as
candidates in this election.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

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Q: Which are the main political parties competing in this
election?

A: There are 39 political parties fielding candidates; the
largest ones are:

- The People's Power Party
- The Democrat Party
- The Chart Thai Party
- The Motherland Party
- The Ruam Chai Thai Chart Pattana Party
- The Matchima Thippathai Party

For more detail on these parties and their leading figures,
please see ref A.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Q: How does this coming election differ from those of
previous years?

A: Under the 1997 Constitution, which was in effect until the
2006 coup d'etat, the House of Representatives consisted of
500 seats: 400 from constituencies (the same number as
currently), and 100 from a party list.

Under the 1997 Constitution, the 400 constituency MPs were
elected as the sole representatives from their
constituencies. Now, under the 2007 Constitution,
constituencies are larger, and there will be three MPs from a
typical constituency. This change, which marks a return to
pre-1997 practices, was intended to hinder vote-buying, and
to reduce the advantages of large political parties.

Under the 1997 constitution, the 100 party list MPs were
elected off of a national party list. Now, the 80 party list
MPs will be elected from eight separate regional party lists.
This change was intended to ensure that party list MPs
represent a more diverse group with stronger ties to voters
in different regions.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Q: What are expectations for voter turnout?

A: We expect high turnout, as voting in elections is
mandatory under Thai law. In 2005, voter turnout was over 72
percent. Academic opinion polling institutes predict roughly
the same turnout in the coming election.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Q: When will the election results be known?

A: Unofficial, incomplete election results will be known
within hours of the polls' closing (at 3:00 p.m. on election

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day). At least one major media organization is conducting a
quick count that will shape initial public impressions.
Political parties will quickly receive data from their
witnesses at the polling stations (where the votes will be
counted), who should report figures up their chains of
command.

The Election Commission must announce official results within
seven days of the election, unless it is investigating
alleged improprieties. In case of such investigations, the
Election Commission has up to 30 days to announce official
results.

The Constitution specifies that the House is to hold its
first session within 30 days of the election. The
Constitution also specifies that the House may meet so long
as 95 percent of the House members are filled. The
Constitution does not indicate how to proceed if more than
five percent of the House seats remain vacant more than 30
days after the election.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Q: When will the next government be formed?

A: Within 30 days of the House's first session (which, as
stated above, must be within 30 days of the election),
members of the House must elect from among their ranks a
Prime Minister. If this does not happen during that time
frame, the President of the House has 15 days to submit a
name of a Prime Minister to the King for appointment. Thus,
the Prime Minister must be chosen no later than 75 days after
the election.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Q: How is the Prime Minister selected?

A: The Prime Minister is selected by a majority vote in the
House in favor of a resolution designating that person as
Prime Minister. No less than one-fifth of the current
members of the House (96 members, when the House is at full
strength) must endorse such a resolution in order for it to
proceed to a vote. The Constitution specifies that such
votes are open, and that political parties cannot require
their members to vote according to party lines.

The Constitution directs that, if no person receives majority
support for his candidacy as Prime Minister, the President of
the House is to submit to the King the name of the person who
received the most votes after being put forward for House
consideration.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Q: Has there ever been a case in Thailand where a party wins
a plurality but does not form a government?

A: Yes, although rarely. In 1997 and 1975, parties that did
not hold a plurality in the parliament were able to form a
government with one of their own members as Prime Minister.

There also have been exceptional occasions when parties
supported military figures who did not have seats in
parliament to become Prime Minister. The last such
experience was sufficiently negative that the current
Constitution prohibits such a practice, requiring that the
Prime Minister be an elected member of the House.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Q: To whom can people report electoral improprieties?

A: Any voter can petition the Election Commission if he/she

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believes that an election was unfair.

The Election Commission is charged with investigating
allegations and applying appropriate remedies. If the
Election Commission reaches its conclusion in the matter
prior to its announcement of the election results, the
Election Commission's determination is final. If the
complaints arise after the Election Commission has already
announced the election results, the Election Commission is to
turn the matter over to the Supreme Court, which will conduct
its own investigation and determination of the matter.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Q: What other powers does the Election Commission have?

A: The Constitution grants the Election Commission enormous
power to do whatever is necessary to ensure an honest and
fair election. This includes (but is not limited to):

- Establishing the rules for the election;
- Issuing orders to national and local government officials
to ensure their cooperation with election-related efforts;
- Investigating complaints, and searching premises without
warrants if necessary;
- Seizing assets of persons who are implicated in vote-buying;
- Ordering new elections when necessary;
- Disqualifying candidates or applying other sanctions to
them when warranted; and
- Filing a motion with the Constitutional Court to dissolve a
political party whose leadership promotes unfair or dishonest
election practices through acts of commission or omission.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Q: Who are the Election Commission members, and who appointed
them?

A: There are five Election Commissioners. They were selected
by the Senate in early September 2006, prior to the military
coup d'etat. Prior to becoming Election Commissioners, four
were judges and one was a state attorney.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Q: Which independent organizations will observe the election?

A: Various independent organizations are mounting observation
efforts, although it remains unclear whether any one of them
will provide thorough coverage nationwide. Multiple Thai
NGOs, including the Lawyer's Council of Thailand, the Thai
Election Network, and the Institute for Democracy (ref B),
plan to field thousands of volunteer observers, covering
every province, with financial assistance from the Election
Commission. Pollwatch, an independent Thai election
watchdog, plans to field at least 1,000 observers in southern
provinces, as well as an undetermined number of observers
elsewhere. The international organization ANFREL, with
partial funding from the Canadian government and the Asia
Foundation, will deploy at least 32 international observers
in 17 provinces. Political parties also plan to have
representatives monitor election day activities. The U.S.
Embassy and Consulate General in Chiang Mai will field
approximately 20 observer teams in various provinces.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Q: What roles do deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra
and the 2006 coup leaders have in this election?

A: Thaksin has no formal role in the coming election,
although PPP, one of the major parties, has made clear its
allegiance to him and his policies.


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Of the six leaders of the security forces who composed the
initial coup council, only Sonthi Boonyaratglin, who headed
the coup council, has a formal role relating to the election.
He currently serves as Deputy Prime Minister and head of a
"National Committee to Prevent Vote-Buying." The precise
scope of this committee's duties is unclear.

Another member of the original coup council, General (ret)
Ruengroj Mahasaranond, has become a Deputy Leader of the
(pro-Thaksin) PPP, but he is not running for election.

BOYCE

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