Tuesday, December 18, 2007

EC denies record turnout 'fixed'

General News - Tuesday December 18, 2007


EC denies record turnout 'fixed'


The Election Commission has denied allegations that the record turnout of nearly three million voters in advance voting over the weekend was fixed.

EC secretary-general Suthiphon Thaveechaiyagarn said the record-high turnout represented people's spontaneous reaction to try to return the country to democracy. In addition, it was the people's response to widespread rumours that attempts by some groups were being made to derail and postpone the long-awaited general election.

Election commissioner Praphan Naikowit said yesterday a total of more than 2.96 million people turned out to vote in advance on the weekend

This made up 87.75% of the 2.09 million people who registered to cast advance ballots outside the constituencies where they have house registrations.

Bangkok recorded the highest number of 823,331 people who went to the advance voting, accounting for 91% of the city's total advance registrations.

A total of 1.13 million people cast advance votes in their constituencies without registering in advance. Bangkok again recorded the highest figure of 199,357.

The turnout was high because voters were eager for democracy to return to the country as soon as possible following the military coup on Sept 19 last year, which ousted then prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, Mr Praphan said.

''I went to observe the advance voting in many areas. Voters were very enthusiastic about the polls. They came out to vote spontaneously,'' said Mr Suthiphon.

Col Sansern Kaewkamnerd, spokesman for the Council for National Security, insisted the CNS did not mobilise soldiers to block the People Power party (PPP) from winning seats in parliament.

Their job was to support the EC's supervision of the poll.

Soldiers were given freedom to decide for themselves who they should vote for, Col Sansern said.

Former Thai Rak Thai executive Chaturon Chaisaeng expressed concern that the advance voting over the weekend could have been plagued with fraud.

He made the statement in response to the unusually high number of ballot sheets which far outstripped the number of voters.

Besides, he questioned the idea of sending boxes of advance ballots for safekeeping at police stations and military camps.

The sealed boxes will be kept at the designated locations until polling day on Sunday when they will be opened and counted.

Mr Chaturon said there could be irregularities in the process of moving the boxes.

Mr Chaturon said the EC must be impartial in supervising the polls, as people with ill-intention could derail the election.

Meanwhile, election commissioner Sumeth Upanisakorn said the poll agency has decided to take legal action against Prasaeng Mongkolsiri, a PPP candidate for Uthai Thani province's constituency 1, for violating election law.

Mr Prasaeng was accused of using pictures of Mr Thaksin in his election campaign.

EC regulations forbid candidates from using pictures of former party executives banned from politics by the Constitution Tribunal earlier this year.

Mr Sumeth also said the poll agency filed a police complaint against local poll workers in Roi Et province over their carelessness in burning around 2,500 ballot papers.

An initial investigation found that those officials were careless in bringing ballot papers used for advance voting to burn along with those ballot papers used for the Aug 19 public referendum on the new constitution.

Bangkok Post

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