Thailand begins preparations for local elections

The Election Commission of Thailand (EC) has begun to accept applications from candidates participating in the elections at sub-district level (Tambon Administrative Organisations -TAO), scheduled to take place across Thailand on November 28.

EC members inspect preparations for local elections in Phuket province. (Photo: EC)
EC members inspect preparations for local elections in Phuket province. (Photo: EC)

The election of the TAO councils will be held on November 28 to elect the mayors and members of the 5,300 TAO councils across Thailand. The northeastern region is home to the largest number of sub-districts in Thailand, such as Nakhon Ratchasima province with its 243 sub-districts, followed by Ubon Ratchathani and Si Sa Ket provinces with 179 sub-districts each.

EC Secretary General Jarungvith Phumma said candidates can file applications until October 15 at their TAOs. Applicants are required to adhere to public health rules when submitting their applications.

Jarungvith Phumma also suggested that those applying to enter the TAO race must check to see if they are qualified to run. He said candidates which apply while knowing they may have trouble meeting the required qualifications are violating local administrative organisation election laws.

A violator is liable for a prison term of between 1-10 years, a fine of between 20,000-200,000 baht or both. They will also be stripped of their voting rights for 20 years.

In this year's election, each village will have only one member elected to the TAO Council instead of two as before. Therefore, it is expected that the race will become fiercer. Due to the complicated situation of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Thai Government also requested the EC come up with specific regulations for voting amidst the pandemic.

Meanwhile, Kowit Phuangngam, a member of the Thai Local Power Party, urged the EC not to ban people infected with COVID-19 from voting. His appeal came after it was reported that the EC had ordered a ban on COVID-19 patients from participating in the vote. He suggested some special polling stations or an online voting system should be set up to allow these patients to cast their ballots.

After the Thai military coup in 2014, the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) of Thailand ordered a halt to local elections. Thailand has started to re-organise these elections, starting with the election of the provincial administrative organisation council on September 20, 2020. It was followed by elections for municipal mayors and members at the end of March this year.