February 24, 2008

Thailand: The Democrats Did Not Win a Majority in the Party Lists, or Even a Plurality - Or did they?

In early February I was in discussion with Thailand based Michael Nelson, a research fellow at Chulalongkorn University and long time scholarly observer of Thai politics. We were both of the opinion that the PPP had won a slim majority in the party list, despite Jim Klein’s Asia Sentinel article which claimed otherwise (see, "Thaksin Was Rejected by the Thai Majority“Asia Sentinel January 2nd 2008).

The figures Klein cites appeared on The Nation newspaper website and on MCOT's own tally board, and can still be found on line - they show the Democrats with a total of 14,084,265 and the PPP with 14,071,799. Quite reasonably, these are taken as authoritative, since they appeared on MCOT. However, towards the end of the election evening, for a brief period, this total was corrected on The Nation website, showing a PPP party list majority. Then things disappeared!

A little investigation throws light on the figures. The claim that both the Democrats and the PPP gained over 14 million votes seems very problematic.
Consider that only 32,759,009 voted in the December poll (74.45 % of eligible voters). Now consider this: there were 5.57% spoiled ballots and 2.85% "no-votes" , totalling approximately 2.6 million (see ข่าวสำนักงานคณะกรรมการการเลือกตั้งประเด็นแถลงข่าววันที่ 25 ธันวาคม 2550 เวลา 13.30 น.).

Now if you add the 4-5 million votes for other parties (in party list vote) to the assumed 28 million votes for PPP and DEM, and add the total of spoiled ballots and "no votes", the final figure is around 36-37 million: approximately 4-5 million more than the official number of votes cast. Somewhere, somehow, for a few moments, the Democrats and the PPP were each given an extra two million votes, or so it would seem.

One possible answer lies in the ECT's own figures of the party list released on December 25, which show the following results (totals calculated by me, as the ECT seems to find it hard to totalise).

Party List Votes by Zone
Zone 1
PPP 1,895,372
DEM 1,358,755

Zone 2
PPP 1,717,141
DEM 1,251,995

Zone 3
PPP 2,398,849
DEM 525,934

Zone 4
PPP 2,039,964
DEM 681,617

Zone 5
PPP 1,286,161
DEM 1,497,587

Zone 6
PPP 1,540,307
DEM 1,880,957

Zone 7
PPP 1,133,603
DEM 1,855,827

Zone 8
PPP 319,984
DEM 3,086,288

PPP 12331381

DEM 12138960

Calculated from สรุปจำนวน ส.ส. สัดส่วน แยกตามพรรค which appeared briefly on ECT website, downloaded 25 December.

With the PPP slightly ahead of the Democrats on this count, and with both parties gaining just over 12 million votes, these figures tally with the total number of votes cast.

Now given the existence of two competing lists, one must be wrong, and it would appear to be the one giving the Democrats a plurality (given the number of eligible votes cast), unless there is yet a third list of results out there. Or maybe I am just not good at maths (as we insist on saying down here).

UPDATE April 7, 2008. The figures cited aboved have returned tothe ECT website.