Public has no confidence in new Senate election system: survey

FRIDAY, MAY 10, 2024

Most Thais have zero confidence in the new Senate election system, predicting vote fixing and no positive development for politics, according to a recent public opinion survey.

More than eight out of 10 (82.5%) respondents said they had no hopes for the upcoming senatorial election, in which thousands of candidates will vote among themselves to elect 200 senators.

Only 17.5% of the respondents said they expected the senatorial vote to bring positive changes to Thai politics.

The survey was conducted by the Institute of Future Studies for Development (IFD) among 1,276 eligible voters aged 18 and over in all regions of the country from April 25-30.

The IFD also polled 73 political experts from six groups – academics, politicians, former senators, journalists, and activists – from May 1-6.

Almost 60% of experts said the election could be manipulated through block-voting by candidates from the same groups. Another 72.8% said they expected most of the elected senators to be connected to political parties or big business. 81% of the experts polled said they would not apply to become senators as they were fed up with politics, while 68.5% said they had no interest in the upcoming senatorial vote.

A large majority predicted most new senators would have political connections, either through links to political parties or as former politicians.

Well-known candidates stood the best chance of getting elected, according to 84.7% of the experts surveyed.

When asked about the expected number of candidates in the senatorial election, 38.5% predicted fewer than 100,000, 46.2% said 100,000 to 300,000, and 15.3% said 300,000-500,000. They named the most desirable qualities for senators as integrity and public-mindedness (92.3%), knowledgeableness (53.8%) and political courage (30.8%).

Senate applicants will vote among themselves over six rounds to eventually select 10 senators from each of the 20 eligible fields.

The eligible groups include law and justice, education, public health, agriculture, science and technology, mass communication, employees/workers, business owners, tourism professionals, industrialists, artists/athletes, independent professionals, women, and elderly, disabled or ethnic groups.

Each group at district level will select five people to participate in an inter-group poll to elect 60 district candidates.

The shortlisted candidates – 55,680 from 928 districts nationwide – will then conduct a provincial vote to select two candidates from each group or 40 for each of the country’s 77 provinces.

This will result in 3,080 senatorial candidates contesting at the national level, where they will repeat the intra-group and inter-group voting to select 10 candidates for each of the 20 groups. The 200 selected will become senators.

The new Senate election method was enshrined in the 2017 Constitution written under junta rule and has been criticised as the most complicated voting system ever used in the country. It will produce Thailand’s 13th set of senators since the country’s first Senate was installed in 1946.