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Cablegate: Thai Election: Unofficial Results Good News For

VZCZCXRO9312
OO RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHBK #6257/01 3600850
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 260850Z DEC 07
FM AMEMBASSY BANGKOK
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1216
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS PRIORITY
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA PRIORITY 8136
RUEHWL/AMEMBASSY WELLINGTON PRIORITY 2079
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING PRIORITY 5361
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO PRIORITY 0229
RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL PRIORITY 4094
RHHMUNA/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI PRIORITY
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 BANGKOK 006257

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EAP/MLS, NSC FOR PHU

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM KDEM TH
SUBJECT: THAI ELECTION: UNOFFICIAL RESULTS GOOD NEWS FOR
PRO-THAKSIN PARTY

REF: A. BANGKOK 6248 (CLOSE BUT NO CIGAR)

B. BANGKOK 6243 (UNPREDICTABLE ELECTION)
C. BANGKOK 6182 (RECORD-SETTING VOTING)
D. BANGKOK 6159 (FOCUSING ON PPP)
E. BANGKOK 6157 (ADVANCE VOTING)

SUMMARY
-------

1. (SBU) Final, unofficial results from Thailand's December
23 elections indicate that a record 74.5% of the electorate
voted to give the pro-Thaksin People's Power Party (PPP) a
plurality of 233 seats in the 480-seat House of
Representatives, including a plurality of proportional party
list seats. The Election Commission of Thailand (ECT) said
it will endorse non-contested election results on January 4.
The ECT would investigate election irregularities within 30
days, hold by-elections in problematic constituencies on
January 13, and disqualify some MPs-elect if necessary. The
ECT voted to re-run a Northeast constituency election
following vote-buying allegations and will continue
investigations in other areas. Observers from the Asian
Network for Free Elections said that the elections were
generally well-administered, but raised concerns about
pre-election vote-buying and the adjudication of fraud
claims. The process of choosing the new Senate has begun,
with Senate elections tentatively scheduled for March 2. End
summary.

PRO-THAKSIN PARTY STRENGTHENS HAND
----------------------------------

2. (U) On December 25, the Election Commission of Thailand
(ECT) released final, although not yet officially certified
results from the December 23 Thai election, which differed
somewhat from unofficial results released on December 24 (ref
A). These final figures indicate that that the pro-Thaksin
People's Power Party (PPP) won 233 seats in the 480-seat
House of Representatives, coming 8 votes short of achieving
an absolute majority (241 seats are needed to form a
government). Based on the ECT's unofficial results, the
tally stands at:

PPP..............................233
Democrat.........................165
Chart Thai.......................37
For the Motherland...............24
Ruam Jai Thai Chart Pattana......9
Matchima Thippathai..............7
Pracharaj........................5

3. (U) Of these 480 seats, the PPP was awarded 34 of the 80
proportional party list seats in the parliament, while the
Democrat Party won 33 seats. The Motherland and Chart Thai
parties won seven and four of these seats respectively, while
the Ruam Jai Thai Chart Pattana and Pracharaj parties secured
one party list seat each. Election officials also revised
their turnout statistics, stating that a record 74.45% of the
electorate (32.8 million people out of 44 million registered
voters) exercised their voting rights.

4. (U) Also on December 25, the ECT announced that it would
officially endorse the results in non-controversial
constituencies no later than January 4. (Note: By law, the
ECT must declare official election results for trouble-free
constituencies within seven working days of the election.
End note.) The ECT said it would complete investigations
into election irregularities in contested constituency
elections within 30 days. These investigations could result
in the disqualification of some candidates (red cards)
followed by a re-run election, or the re-run of individual
constituency races with all candidates re-competing (yellow
cards). The ECT set January 13 as the date for the first
round of these by-elections.

5. (U) On December 25, election commissioners voted to
formally "yellow card" three PPP Members of Parliament-elect
in a Nakhon Ratchasima constituency in the Northeast for

BANGKOK 00006257 002 OF 003


allegedly using money to draw voters to pre-election campaign
rallies. These three PPP candidates will be eligible to
re-compete in a January 13 by-election in their constituency.
The ECT also announced it had summoned four other PPP
MPs-elect and two Democrat MPs-elect to testify on December
27 before the ECT concerning allegations they had bought
votes. Additionally, the ECT said it would investigate two
PPP MPs-elect concerning the pre-election distribution of a
controversial VCD that contained a message from deposed Prime
Minister Thaksin Shinawatra (ref D).

6. (SBU) The media have continued to report on back-room
negotiations between the PPP and other parties to form a new
government, in spite of the pending ECT investigation and
potential candidate disqualifications. A senior PPP official
told us that the Ruam Jai Thai Chart Pattana, Matchima
Thippathai, and Pracharaj parties had agreed to join a
PPP-led government, thus giving the coalition a 254-seat
majority in the 480-seat chamber. A Democrat told us on
election night that, as long as the PPP did not win an
outright majority itself, he thought the Democrats still had
a chance, depending on the results of the ECT
disqualification decisions. (However, the PPP has picked up
three seats more than was projected late on election night,
and even three seats matter in this fight.) Chart Thai
leader Banharn has said publicly that his party would wait
for the January 4 official announcement of results from the
ECT.


ANFREL COMMENDS ELECTION, WITH SOME CAVEATS
-------------------------------------------

7. (U) Asian Network for Free Elections (ANFEL) held a press
conference on December 25 to discuss the results of their
observer mission. Delegates included representatives from
South and Southeast Asia, including Thai members (from the
Thai monitoring organization PNET.) ANFREL said that
procedures had gone smoothly on election day, but highlighted
their concerns with violations in the pre-election period,
and with the process of the adjudication of election fraud
claims. ANFREL mission head Damaso Magbual pointed to the
problem of money politics. "People are scared to report vote
buying ... because they fear for their own safety and doubt
that anyone will be successfully prosecuted," he said in
ANFREL's official statement. ANFREL criticized the continued
state of martial law in many provinces. They acknowledged
that it was not used in "a heavy-handed way" but said that,
in Chiang Rai, they had received credible reports the army
had tried to intimidate voters. They were also critical of
the influence of local officials, particularly village heads,
who were often vote canvassers for political parties. ANFREL
raised concerns especially about these village officials
serving on polling station committees, as they had observed
in several provinces in the Northeast and Central provinces.

8. (U) Overall, ANFREL credited the ECT with "generally good
administration" of the vote. They urged the ECT to tighten up
the advance voting arrangements, as these were vulnerable to
fraud. They noted that the ECT's many regulations, although
perhaps intended to create a "level playing field," led to
confusion in some cases, and overburdened the ECT with minor
infractions rather than focusing on serious breaches. They
encouraged the EC to investigate fraud allegations more
vigorously, noting with disappointment the limited number of
cases resolved so far. In this context, they discussed a
case in the rural Northeastern province of Mahasarakham, in
which, they reported, villagers tried to give evidence to the
police about the vote-buying, and to turn in the money they
received; ANFREL reported that the police "actively
discouraged" the villagers. Thai election monitoring
organization PNET helped the villagers bring their claim
directly to the ECT in Bangkok.

9. (U) During the Q and A, several reporters attempted to
get the ANFREL panel members to state that PPP was the most
active in buying votes, but the panelists demurred. The Thai
representative on the panel, referring to the Mahasarakham

BANGKOK 00006257 003 OF 003


case mentioned above, said that "PPP and Chart Thai" had both
been involved in buying votes in that province, and alleged
that those two parties had been the predominate vote-buyers
in that area of the Northeast. Another member of the group
added, however, there were accusations against all parties.
One distinguishing feature of vote-buying in Thailand, ANFREL
pointed out, was that some parties appeared to be paying
voters even in districts where they faced no real
challengers. Another questioner asked whether the prevalence
of vote buying pointed to the failure of the "anti-vote
buying committee" set up by Deputy PM GEN (ret.) Sonthi. The
Thai representative on the panel agreed, saying that in the
Mahasarakham case, PNET had first contacted the anti-vote
buying committee, but it had not wanted to get involved.
Mission head Magbual also noted that ANFREL had raised
specific cases with GEN Sonthi, but GEN Sonthi had deferred
to the ECT to handle them.

NEXT STEP: SENATE SELECTIONS AND ELECTIONS
------------------------------------------

10. (U) The constitution calls for each of the country's 76
provinces to elect one Senator to the 150-seat upper house of
parliament. The remaining 74 Senators will be appointed from
a selection committee composed of the heads of the country's
courts and several independent commissions. On December 25,
the ECT said it was prepared to hold election for 76 of the
150 Senators on March 2 and expects the new government to
issue a royal decree calling for Senate elections. The ECT
announced it would convene the first meeting on December 26
to work out a plan to select the country's 74 appointed
Senators.

COMMENT
-------

11. (SBU) With 233 seats, the game is the PPP's to lose. The
ECT does not appear to be backing down, however, and
political tensions will remain high as the fraud adjudication
process continues and the final seat tallies become clear.


BOYCE

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