An official displays a ballot paper during vote counting at a polling station in Nonthaburi yesterday.
Northeast only region to vote 'No'
MOST VOTERS approve of the draft constitution and of allowing senators to join MPs in selecting a prime minister, according to unofficial vote results from yesterday referendum.
With more than 80 per cent of ballots counted yesterday, 61.8 per cent of voters supported the draft and 38.2 per cent did not.
On whether senators should be allow to select a prime minister, 58.5 per cent said yes and 41.5 per cent said no.
It was the country’s first national vote since the coup of 2014 and the general election of 2011.
Voters were asked whether the draft constitution should be approved and whether to allow selected senators to vote with elected MPs to choose a prime minister for the five-year transitional period after the new Parliament convenes its first meeting.
All regions of the country except the Northeast supported both questions, according to results provided by the Election Commission.
The widest margin was in the South, where “Yes” votes outnumbered “No” votes by 77 per cent to 23 per cent to approve the draft constitution. In the Northeast, 52 per cent of voters disapproved of the draft compared to 48 per cent who approved of it, while 55.5 per cent voted “No” for senators selecting a PM and 44.5 per cent voted “Yes”.
Unlike in previous votes, the number of people who tore their ballot papers was high yesterday. There were as many as 35 cases of voters tearing their ballots across the country, including 10 cases in Bangkok, according to police. Most of the alleged offenders said they thought they had to divide the ballot before voting on the two referendum questions.
EC member Somchai Srisutthiyakorn said no legal action would be taken against those who damaged a ballot out of a misunderstanding. However, he added, activists who did so intentionally would be charged with destroying a ballot and instigating unrest.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha urged people to accept the results of yesterday’s vote.
General Prayut also thanked Thais for coming out in great numbers to vote, according to government spokesman Maj-General Sansern Kaewkamnerd.
“The prime minister is ready to accept the vote result and he asks all the parties involved to accept the decision by the people,” the spokesman said.Prayut also reiterated that the political roadmap set by the government would be followed.
The spokesman described the referendum as “transparent and fair”, adding that “everyone wants the country to move forward”.
The prime minister will hold an informal meeting of the Cabinet today to discuss the referendum result, Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said. The meeting will gather opinions before discussing them in a joint meeting between the Cabinet and National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) tomorrow.
“The joint meeting will have a clear direction of the next step, whether the charter draft passes or fails to pass the referendum,” Wissanu said.
Constitution Drafting Commission chairman Meechai Ruchuphan called on people to accept vote resuls even if the winning margin was slight.
The EC’s Somchai said he believed the voter turnout rate was higher than in the 2007 referendum, which saw a 57 per cent turnout. He said yesterday’s turnout could be as high as 70 per cent.
The EC hopes the people will accept the result, no matter what it is, he said.
Asked how the EC would respond to international criticism about the referendum, Somchai said he did not believe international news agencies were of high quality. He said they did not have a correct understanding about the current situations in Thailand and had incorrect judgements towards the country.
Leaders of the red shirt United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) blamed the Election Commission and the NCPO for a low voter turnout. They said the authorities created an “atmosphere of fear” for people who disagreed with the draft charter.
The anti-coup student group New Democracy Movement (NDM) yesterday started its campaign to scrutinise the vote and vote count to make sure there was no foul play.
Meanwhile, most respondents in a survey by Suan Dusit Rajabhat University were not optimistic about Thai politics after the referendum.
More than 55 per cent of the 1,279 respondents said they thought there would be no improvement in Thai politics, with conflicts still remaining. That was compared to 31.7 per cent who said they thought the situation would be better after yesterday’s referendum, which they viewed as a preparation for voting in the general election expected next year.
Some 12.8 per cent of those surveyed saw a grim outlook, saying that division and conflict would worsen.