A Puzzle for Political Watchers

[Moved from the ‘To the Courts’ post]

I just saw Chang Noi’s recent column “Such a Strange Election”, in which he has an interesting observation:

The most striking difference is that 3.8 million people spoiled their ballot paper on the constituency vote, but only 1.6 million on the party list vote. In other words, at least 2.2 million people spoiled one ballot paper but not the other. In addition, at least 0.6 million decided to no-vote on one ballot paper, but not on the other. It’s very difficult to understand why the number of protest votes (no-vote or spoilt ballot) was around 3 million higher on the constituency vote than on the party list vote. You’d expect the opposite. If you wanted to register a protest against Thaksin, it would make more sense to do it on the party list ballot. On top, more people selected the minor parties on the party list than on the constituency vote. Again, you’d expect the opposite.

If you are a Thaksin supporter, you may not like Chang Noi’s bold hints of a conspiricy theory… but I think it’s a puzzle well worth looking at. Comments please on your take on this ‘strange’ election result.

4 responses to “A Puzzle for Political Watchers

  1. [Moved JW’s comments here too]

    I am still deciding to finish a post on Chang Noi, but have been caught up with some other things. There are many reasons why people would vote for TRT for the party list vote and for the “no vote” or spoil the ballot for the constituency vote.

    If you don’t like the TRT constituency candidate, don’t know who they are, or maybe in previous elections you voted for a different local candidate (ie the Democrat candidate) because you liked that candidate personally or that person was the sitting MP and had made a contribution to the electorate then on 2 April you had very limited range of choices. The smaller party candidates? Well, who are they, so no. This leaves the spoiling your ballot paper (which is also done by not marking anything) or the “no vote” option. Not all of the people who choose the “no vote” option for the constituency vote did so because they disliked Thaksin (see this poll result – which I will blog about tomorrow.

    Because there is a “party list vote”, you can choose to not vote for the TRT candidate, but still vote for TRT on the party list vote. This is one reason which explains the discrepancy between the number of spoiled ballots or no votes on the party list vote vs the constituency vote.

    The thing that frustrated me the most about Chang Noi’s column was that she gives the answer:

    “Some voters used their constituency vote to choose a local candidate they liked, but then used their party list vote to select Thai Rak Thai. That behaviour makes sense.”

  2. Tom suggested one explanation a while back on JW’s blog. Voters could have chosen to mark the number for a small party on both ballots. Since in many constituencies, there were no small party candidates, a vote for a small party on the constituency portion would be considered spoiled. It’s an interesting argument, but I havn’t had the chance yet to check this against the numbers that minor parties got on the party list vs constituency.

  3. Tettyan: Again, this is another likely reason. I should have said in regards to my possible reason – I suggested it because I only know how one person voted and they choose the “no vote” on the constituency vote (because they weren’t satisfied with the TRT candidate) and TRT on the party list vote. The poll I linked also give reasons on why voters chose the “no vote” for the constituency vote. There are a enough people who believe in conspiracy theories without Chang Noi at least indirectly implying another one.

  4. Thanks, Tettyan. Tom’s post in Thai gives a more detail breakdown of the numbers. On the difference of votes between the party list and constituency, only the South diverges from the national trend.

    * Spoiled ballot for both votes were about the same – compared to the nationally where number of spoiled ballots was doubled for the constituency vote.
    * There are more ‘no’ votes in the party list than in the constituency race.
    * But there’s less votes for the minor parties in the party list compared to the consituency vote.

    I guess this means Chang Noi’s theory (“If you wanted to register a protest against Thaksin, it would make more sense to do it on the party list ballot.”) applies to the South, but not the rest of the country.

    For the rest of the country, maybe Tom’s theory (“vote for a small party on the constituency portion would be considered spoiled”) accounts for the big difference in in the spoiled ballots for the two votes. Having intended to case to protest vote for a minor party, the voters instead inadvertedly spoiled their ballots. Case closed?

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