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Senate Election Rules Overhauled: EC Secretary-General Sawang Boonmee Clarifies New Vote Exchange Regulations

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An election official gingerly showcased a ballot paper at one of the Senate election stations. The venue? The swanky Centara Life Government Complex Hotel & Convention Centre, which buzzed with eager participants on June 16. Winners from this provincial election would find themselves on a thrilling journey to the national voting round on June 26. (Photo: Varuth Hirunyatheb)

Now, brace yourself: The grueling dance of wooing or even exchanging votes in the Senate election no longer stands in violation of the Election Commission’s (EC) regulations. This revelation came from no other than the EC secretary-general, Sawang Boonmee, on a rather sunny Thursday. For those wondering whether encouraging votes for oneself or promising a cheeky vote exchange was still a Senate faux pas—it isn’t anymore.

Here’s the scoop: A petition had once cast its shadow on the EC’s stern restrictions that initially crimped candidates’ election campaigns. However, on May 24, the Administrative Court swept in with a ruling that discarded these restrictive measures, and poof, they were no more.

Mr. Sawang, true to his composed demeanor, played down the media’s frenzied reports about an apparent avalanche of complaints regarding alleged Senate election regulation breaches. Given that there are 40,000 candidates, he opined that the flood of complaints isn’t quite like Noah’s. The EC is diligently delving into each complaint, ready to serve justice if any allegations hold water.

In the wake of the May 24 ruling, the shackles on Senate election candidates’ public self-promotion were cast off, offering candidates the delightful liberty to use votes as they see fit—except for the sinful act of buying votes, of course.

“When we crafted these rules, fairness was our North Star,” remarked Mr. Sawang, reflecting on the now-defunct constraints. “But the court has exalted the rights and freedoms of the candidates above all, and so we abide.”

As whispers swirled around about the Upper House being dominated by candidates linked to conservative political factions and the reformist Move Forward Party (MFP), Mr. Sawang kept his cards close to his chest. “It’s hard to say,” he mused.

Among the recent complaints about election misconduct, three particularly saucy submissions made waves on Wednesday. Notable figures such as the famed lawyer Sitra Biabangkerd, the unyielding political activist Sonthiya Sawatdee, and the former high-ranking police officer Santana Prayoonrat had all lodged formal grievances, alleging breaches in the election regulations.

After putting his case forward to the EC, Mr. Sitra proclaimed that he had handed over incriminating evidence of collusion, revealing a scheme where groups of candidates had orchestrated a vote-casting charade for certain favored candidates. Mr. Sitra, who had basked in the glory of the highest votes in the district and provincial rounds in Samut Sakhon, is set to throw his hat in the ring for the national vote showdown next Wednesday. Clutching proof of vote buying, he seemed ready for a battle.

Meanwhile, Mr. Sonthiya and Mr. Santana, who had both tasted victory in the district-level vote in Bangkok’s Pathumwan district only to be thwarted at the provincial level, were not backing down. Mr. Sonthiya revealed his intention to bring his petition either before the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Political Office-Holders or the Constitutional Court, scrutinizing the election results. Mr. Santana, on the other hand, pointed fingers at three prominent yet unnamed parties, accusing them of orchestrating the murky business of vote buying in this fervent Senate race.


  1. Alice Hart June 20, 2024

    This decision is a complete disaster. Allowing candidates to exchange votes openly is just legalized corruption.

    • Bob J. June 20, 2024

      But isn’t this a step towards more transparency? At least now we know who’s making deals.

      • Dave76 June 20, 2024

        Transparency is good, but this is essentially institutionalizing vote trading. It’s a slippery slope.

      • Alice Hart June 20, 2024

        Exactly. What’s next? Allowing flat-out vote buying as long as it’s declared upfront? It’s ridiculous!

    • Catherine E. June 20, 2024

      I guess it depends on your perspective. The candidates still can’t buy votes directly, so there are some limits.

  2. Tom Green June 20, 2024

    I believe this ruling is great for democracy. It gives power to the candidates to campaign more freely without arbitrary restrictions.

    • Sarah June 20, 2024

      Free campaigning is one thing, but without some controls, the elections could become a playground for the well-connected.

    • RoyMunson June 20, 2024

      I agree, the move to lift some restrictions is beneficial. Too many rules can stifle genuine competition.

    • Tom Green June 20, 2024

      Exactly, and the EC is still investigating allegations, so it’s not a free-for-all.

  3. Jamie L. June 20, 2024

    The EC is being too lenient. They need to strike down any shady dealings harshly if they want to maintain credibility.

  4. grower134 June 20, 2024

    It seems to me that all these ‘reforms’ are just allowing the powerful to manipulate the system more easily.

    • RMiller June 20, 2024

      Have you considered that these changes might enable smaller, less established candidates to gain some ground?

    • grower134 June 20, 2024

      That’s overly optimistic. Who has the resources to trade votes effectively? It’s the big players.

  5. Linda S. June 20, 2024

    What worries me is the allegations of vote buying. If this isn’t kept in check, the whole system is tarnished.

    • Joe June 20, 2024

      Indeed. The EC must take strong action against vote-buying to ensure fair elections.

    • Linda S. June 21, 2024

      Exactly. Just because vote exchanges are allowed doesn’t mean there can’t be strict enforcement against outright bribery.

  6. Max H. June 20, 2024

    Sawang Boonmee claims fairness, but I find it hard to believe fairness is even a priority here.

    • Claire Chen June 20, 2024

      It’s the job of the EC to maintain fairness. Let’s see how they handle these complaints first before judging.

    • Max H. June 21, 2024

      Fair point, but their recent actions don’t inspire much confidence.

  7. Liam June 21, 2024

    I think this will just make candidates focus more on campaign strategies rather than genuine policy discussions.

  8. Ella P. June 21, 2024

    In the end, it might come down to who can play the vote-exchange game better rather than who has better policies for the people.

  9. Mike June 21, 2024

    This whole thing seems shady. If they really found people buying votes, those guys should be banned from running.

  10. Anna M. June 21, 2024

    If you’re in it for the long game, your focus should be on maintaining integrity. Shortcuts rarely lead to lasting success.

  11. Sophie Grant June 21, 2024

    Mr. Sitra’s claims are worrisome. If true, they need to be addressed swiftly.

  12. Chris June 21, 2024

    Allegations are just that until proven. Let’s not jump to conclusions.

  13. Elena June 21, 2024

    Voter manipulation at any level undermines the whole process. The EC should be more stringent.

  14. Nate June 21, 2024

    Anyone else think that these rule changes make things more chaotic and less predictable?

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