By The Nation Weekend
This past week, political parties have pulled out all their trump cards in a final bid to woo voters before they cast their ballots on Sunday.
The Election Commission, meanwhile, has said it is ready for the election – the first in almost a decade – despite the difficulties it encountered last week during advance voting.
On Friday, the four key parties – Pheu Thai, the Democrats, Future Forward and Phalang Pracharat – took to the stage for the last time to deliver their speeches and reiterate their promises.
Phalang Pracharat came up with a secret weapon with its new tagline “Choose Peace, Choose Uncle Tu”, referring to junta leader General Prayut Chan-o-cha by his nickname and opting for the term “uncle” to apparently make him more approachable.
The tagline, printed on bright red paper, has been wrapped around campaign posters nationwide in a move to attract voters, particularly those who are still haunted by street rallies, violence and political turmoil before the military took over five years ago.
The pro-democracy bloc, meanwhile, has fought back, using a similar slogan to counter the junta’s moves to cling to power. In its final rally in Bangkok on Friday, Pheu Thai erected big signs in front of its rally venue, saying “put away the uncle and give all your votes to Pheu Thai”.
Pheu Thai suffered a serious setback after its sister party Thai Raksa Chart was dissolved for naming Princess Ubolratana as its candidate for prime minister.
Before this mishap, the camp had hoped to win both constituency and party-list seats and beat the junta’s election system with its sharing strategy. Now, in the last lap before the vote, Pheu Thai is calling on voters to choose them instead of other pro-democracy parties.
Veteran politician Bhokin Bhalakula called on voters on Friday to vote for Pheu Thai and make it the winner in all 250 constituencies it has candidates in.
Though that could lead to Pheu Thai getting no party-list MPs, it could also make things very difficult for its rivals, as they would need as many as 80,000 votes or more to get just one party-list MP elected.
This comes after Pheu Thai’s creative “lottery for savings” proposal rocked the voters last week. Touching on Thai people’s love for the lottery, the party promised to turn all the money spent on lotteries into a saving scheme, which people can draw from as a pension after retirement.
Future Forward Party is offering an alternative to the old conflicts plaguing the country over the past 12 years with its final campaign titled “Don’t let old politics hold Thailand back”.
It also launched a campaign to “Switch off the Senate”, in which it is calling for the 376 MPs in the 500-member Lower House to make a decision on the prime minister so the junta-appointed Senate can be stopped from being the determining factor in choosing the PM.
Meanwhile, the EC said it was ready to roll on Sunday and will not repeat the mistakes that occurred during advance voting last week.
EC secretary-general Jarungvith Phumma said on Friday that all the ballot papers and other equipment have already been dispatched to 92,300 voting stations across the country with a reliable checking system. All ballots will arrive safely at the correct constituencies with no mistakes, he said.
On the eve of the election, all papers and equipment will be checked again, he promised.
Jarungvith also advised voters to check the candidate’s number and name twice before voting.
He said some may have been disqualified, such as those running under the banner of the now-defunct Thai Raksa Chart Party, and ballots marked for these candidates will be voided.