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Thailand’s Senate Election Faces Challenges: Loopholes and Low Turnout Raise Concerns

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The Senate race kicked off on Sunday across 928 districts nationwide, and there’s a buzz in the air. But not the kind of buzz you might expect—folks are concerned that the new election system may not quite hit the mark that the charter drafters aimed for.


According to the 2017 constitution, the soon-to-be-formed Senate replacing the junta-appointed chamber is slated to have 200 members. These members will be cherry-picked from 20 professional groups, with each group snagging 10 seats. Sounds simple, right? Wrong.

The Election Commission (EC) is orchestrating this election through a three-phase process that’s intricately designed to ensure fairness—or so they hope. Here’s how it will go down:

  1. District Level: Candidates within their own professional groups vote among themselves. The top five from each group then get to compete on an inter-group level.
  2. Provincial Level: The top three candidates from each of these inter-group elections move on to the provincial stage, making for a total of 60 candidates across the 20 groups.
  3. National Level: Finally, these finalists duke it out until the top 10 candidates in each professional group are crowned as senators.

The endgame? A Senate brimming with impartial experts. The charter drafters had visions of a chamber devoid of manipulation, thanks to this complex voting system. But what happens if their idealistic dream crashes and burns?


Hold your horses: it looks like trouble is already brewing. Only 48,117 candidates have thrown their hats in the ring, a far cry from the 100,000 the system needs to thrive. Talk about a rough start.

Kamnoon Sidhisamarn, a former senator and one of the charter writers, shed some light on the situation. You see, in some districts, only one professional group is participating. During cross-group voting, these lonesome participants won’t receive any votes and basically stand zero chance of advancing to the provincial level. A glaring loophole, right?

“What’s the EC going to do about this? Will they just disqualify these candidates?” Kamnoon pondered. With fewer candidates, predicting whether the new Senate will function as the drafters intended is tricky at best.

Kamnoon noted that the new Senate is a different beast from its predecessors, which were mainly packed with legal specialists. This time, only 10 senators will come from the legal and justice administration field. But does that spell doom for our fledgling Senate?


Kamnoon doesn’t think so. The Senate’s secretariat can offer a helping hand to senators who may not be seasoned legislative wizards. Besides, it’s the first rodeo for this election system, so a few hiccups were always in the cards. If people are grumbling about it, well, they can always push for amendments to the charter and Senate election laws.

Olarn Thinbangtieo, a political science lecturer from Burapha University, sees the low turnout as a significant snag for this complicated system. How will the Election Commission manage the shortcomings that are already apparent?

“If the district-level election is flawed, the subsequent stages are destined to be flawed too,” Olarn sagely observed. Any unfair disqualification due to the low turnout risks undermining the very essence of this system, which is all about fair representation from 20 different fields.

Stithorn Thananithichot of King Prajadhipok’s Institute echoed these apprehensions but felt that they weren’t compelling enough to justify a postponement or cancellation of the elections. Still, the election officials need to be on the ball and enforce the rules uniformly across the board to stave off any legal conundrums.

But there’s a more sinister shadow lurking. With a smaller pool of candidates, the election becomes ripe for manipulation, a concern raised by caretaker Senator Somchai Swangkarn who fears collusion could be afoot. Yikes.


Phichai Ratnatilaka Na Bhuket from the National Institute of Development Administration reminded everyone that the district-level election is the linchpin of this race. The EC must diligently screen candidates to keep the process from becoming a farce.

While some may try to mess with the national level election, Phichai believes it’s probably not worth their while because the Senate’s role, although significant, is limited. Sure, the Senate can co-select a prime minister and scrutinize nominations and legislation, but that’s par for the course.

The real kicker? The Senate’s stance on charter rewrite. Will they rise to the occasion or fall in line with the powers-that-be? Your guess is as good as ours.

Meanwhile, Move Forward Party leader Chaithawat Tulathon is biting his nails over the possibility of the election results being delayed or even nullified. The Senate election law doesn’t specify when the EC needs to endorse or announce the results, which could lead to prolonged delays if complaints flood in. Adding fuel to the fire, the Constitutional Court is set to scrutinize whether the Senate election law jives with the charter.

Chaithawat didn’t mince words, pointing fingers at the now-defunct National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) and the charter drafters for the murky legal waters surrounding the Senate election. It’s a tangled web, folks.


  1. grower134 June 9, 2024

    This election system seems way too complex. Why can’t we have a straightforward method of choosing our senators?

    • Olivia Robinson June 9, 2024

      The complexity is meant to prevent manipulation and ensure fair representation. Simpler systems can be easily manipulated by those in power.

      • grower134 June 9, 2024

        Sure, but even now, manipulation is a concern. It just seems like this complexity benefits those who designed it.

      • phd_hat June 9, 2024

        Both of you have points; complexity can be both a safeguard and a vulnerability. The real issue is how well the system is executed and overseen.

    • Techie101 June 9, 2024

      Modern problems require modern solutions. The complex system reflects an attempt to adapt to the intricate nature of contemporary politics. Embrace it!

  2. Anya W. June 9, 2024

    Low turnout is a significant issue. Without enough candidates, the quality of the Senate will suffer.

    • Jake D. June 9, 2024

      Totally agree. We need diverse and motivated candidates for the Senate to function well.

    • PoliSciMan June 9, 2024

      Engagement is critical. The election commission should find ways to increase participation, maybe through better education about the process.

  3. Sammy Little June 9, 2024

    Isn’t it ironic that the system that was supposed to prevent manipulation might end up being the most easily manipulated?

    • Diana K. June 9, 2024

      Ironic and tragic. If we can’t trust the system, then what’s the point?

    • phd_hat June 9, 2024

      This is a classic example of unintended consequences. The designers likely didn’t foresee such low participation.

  4. Larry Davis June 9, 2024

    The EC has a daunting task ahead. Can they truly ensure fairness with these procedural hiccups?

    • Jessica June 9, 2024

      They will have to. Accountability and transparency should be their guiding principles.

    • Larry D June 9, 2024

      If the EC can’t manage it, who will step in? This feels like a setup for a legal and political mess.

    • Olivia Robinson June 9, 2024

      Perhaps an international body should monitor the election to ensure impartiality. Extreme, but it might be necessary.

  5. Shawn R. June 9, 2024

    Low candidate numbers are a big red flag. Why aren’t more people stepping up?

    • Julie A. June 9, 2024

      Maybe it’s because people don’t trust the system. They don’t want to participate in a process they think is rigged.

  6. MoveForwrd54 June 9, 2024

    The Move Forward Party leader has a point. Without clear deadlines for result announcements, this could drag on forever.

  7. Matthew June 9, 2024

    Kamnoon Sidhisamarn talks about potential amendments. But realistically, how many people are going to push for that?

    • Sara L. June 9, 2024

      It’s hard to change a system once it’s in place, especially if those in power benefit from the status quo.

    • Jessica June 9, 2024

      Civil society has to be vocal and persistent. Change can happen, but it’s an uphill battle.

  8. John Smith June 9, 2024

    Olarn Thinbangtieo believes the entire system is flawed if the district-level election is flawed. He’s right; it’s a chain reaction.

    • Hannah June 9, 2024

      If the district level is broken, the rest is doomed. The Election Commission has its work cut out for them.

    • BobbyJay June 9, 2024

      True, but every system has weaknesses. It’s about how those weaknesses are managed.

    • John Smith June 9, 2024

      Correct. But these weaknesses seem already overwhelming; that’s what’s worrisome.

  9. Larissa B. June 9, 2024

    Fewer candidates mean more room for collusion and backdoor deals. We can’t let this happen!

    • Samuel R. June 9, 2024

      Transparency is the key. The whole process needs to be public and scrutinized.

    • Andrea T. June 9, 2024

      Would more candidates really solve the problem? It seems deeper than just numbers.

  10. Annie June 9, 2024

    Phichai has the right idea. It’s the district-level election that’s the linchpin. Without a strong foundation, the structure will collapse.

  11. Greg T. June 9, 2024

    Interesting take on the role of the Senate. Their limited powers make the entire election system seem a bit much.

    • Lisa June 9, 2024

      True, but the Senate still plays a crucial role in legislation and oversight. We can’t downplay its importance.

    • Greg T. June 9, 2024

      Sure, but the extent of this complex system for a body with such limited power seems like overkill.

  12. LionHeart June 9, 2024

    Chaithawat Tulathon’s concerns about delays and legal issues are valid. These loopholes need to be addressed before the election takes place.

  13. Joe June 9, 2024

    In the end, if we want a system that represents us, we all have to get involved. Complaining online solves nothing.

    • BXX69 June 9, 2024

      Easier said than done, Joe. The system’s already stacked against the average person.

    • Sophia June 9, 2024

      But Joe’s right in principle. Collective action is our best chance for change.

  14. Jake D. June 9, 2024

    The role of the Senate in co-selecting a prime minister is more significant than some realize. This election needs to be robust and fair.

  15. Sarah P. June 9, 2024

    The EC must be proactive. If they don’t implement these rules uniformly, we’re looking at chaos and mistrust.

  16. Ethan June 9, 2024

    With the Constitutional Court involved, this Senate election could be delayed indefinitely. Not a great situation.

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