Academic journal article Contemporary Southeast Asia

The North: Thaksin-Lite?

Academic journal article Contemporary Southeast Asia

The North: Thaksin-Lite?

Article excerpt

The March 2019 elections saw Pheu Thai's longstanding dominance of constituency seats in the Upper North decline somewhat, while the Lower North saw a very strong showing by the pro-military Palang Pracharat Party--which had only been formed in 2018--demonstrating that a well-funded newcomer could make dramatic electoral inroads in the region.

Northern Thailand is culturally and geographically divided into two zones of eight provinces: the Upper North (comprising Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Lampang, Lamphun, Mae Hong Son, Nan, Phayao and Phrae) and the Lower North (comprising Kamphaeng Phet, Nakhon Sawan, Phetchabun, Phichit, Phitsanulok, Sukhothai, Tak and Uttaradit). The 16 provinces in the northern region contain 62 parliamentary constituencies. As shown in Figure 1, Pheu Thai gained 29 seats (receiving 46.77 per cent of the votes), while 25 seats (40.32 per cent) went to the Palang Pracharat Party, five (8.06 per cent) to the Future Forward Party, two (3,23 per cent) to the Bhumjaithai Party and one (1.61 per cent) to the Democrat Party. (1)

There are two main groups of Northern voters: those who voted for Pheu Thai and those who supported Palang Pracharat. However, if the northern region is divided into the Upper North and the Lower North, it becomes clear that the two areas voted very differently. Pheu Thai won in 24 of the 31 constituencies in the Upper North (with 77.42 per cent of the votes), giving them a clear majority of seats, while Future Forward won in four constituencies (12.9 per cent) and Palang Pracharat won in three constituencies (9.68 per cent) (see Figure 2). In contrast, in the Lower North, Pheu Thai won only five of the 31 constituency seats (16.13 per cent), while Palang Pracharat won 22 seats (70.96 per cent), Bhumjaithai two seats (6.45 per cent) and both Future Forward and the Democrat Party secured one seat each (3.23 per cent) (see Figure 3).

As can be seen in Figures 2 and 3, most voters in the Upper North chose Pheu Thai, while Lower North voters preferred Palang Pracharat. The Pheu Thai Party did not field candidates in Phrae, so as not to compete with the Thai Raksa Chart Party, a pro-Thaksin party created in late 2018, and which was backed by a local political clan. The secretary-general of Thai Raksa Chart was northerner Mitti Tiyapairat, owner of a football club in Chiang Rai Province, and also son of Yongyuth Tiyapairat, who was a former minister, regional powerbroker and a key figure in the Thai Rak Thai Party (the precursor to Pheu Thai, and Thaksin's original party vehicle prior to its dissolution by the Constitutional Tribunal in 2007). The executive committee of Thai Raksa Chart was also staffed by relatives of Thaksin Shinawatra, Reupob Shinawatra and Chayika Wongnabhachan.

Figure 1
Votes for Constituency Seats in the North

Pheu Thai          46.77%
Palang Pracharat   40.38%
Future Forward      8.06%
Bhumjaithai         3.23%

Source: Election results.

Note: Table made from pie chart.

Figure 2
Votes for Constituency Seats in the Upper North

Pheu Thai          77.42%
Future Forward     12.90%
Palang Pracharat    9.68%

Source: Election resu lts, lters/northern.

Note: Table made from pie chart.

Figure 3
Votes for Constituency Seats in the Lower North

Palang Pracharat   70.96%
Pheu Thai          16.13%
Bhumjaithai         6.45%
Future Forward      3.23%
Democrat            3.23%
Source: Election results.

Note: Table made from pie chart.

However, the unexpected last-minute dissolution of Thai Raksa Chart on 7 March led anti-military voters to switch their support to the upstart Future Forward Party, which won both Phrae constituencies by huge margins. If Thai Raksa Chart had not been dissolved by the Constitutional Court for illegally nominating Princess Ubolratana as its prime ministerial candidate, it is likely that Pheu Thai and Thai Raksa Chart would together have won 26 out of the 31 available seats (83. …

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