Date: 17 Jan 2014, Politics and Current Affairs
Question setter: John Karslake

Thai elections 2014

Will a general election in Thailand, on 2nd February 2014, return Yingluck Shinawatra as prime minister, with 95% of seats in the House of Representatives filled?


Answer: Yes
Confidence level: 30%
Mean confidence level (all requests): 27.60%

Yingluck Shinawatra, the current prime minister, won the last election with a good majority and commands enough support in the country to repeat that. Her supporters are mainly northern, rural poor. The battle is essentially between them and the southern middle class represented by the PDRC, who resent being out of power and have no chance of winning an election. The PDRC has been hoping to force the PM's resignation by bringing Bangkok to a standstill. They have been successful in leading protest marches and blockades but have failed to retain the threat of an army coup if other pressure fails. The army ousted Yingluck's brother but does not seem to want to revisit that. Agreement has been made by the Electoral Commission, the governing party and the army that elections are held on 2nd Feb as required by law. It is improbable that the opposition leader, Suthep Thaugsuban, would find enough backing to prevent this through violence. Many of his followers are already concerned by the risk of economic damage and they would find themselves up against both police and Yingluck's supporters, who have been incited in the past. Provided that the seat quota is met then the answer to the question should be yes.

Outcome: No
Score: -30
Mean score (all respondents): 11.60

Expert opinion:

Answer: Yes

Selected Expert Answer from Mettletest Panellist:
With two weeks to go it looks likely that the election will take place and Yingluck Shinawatra will win, with her supporters in the north and poorer areas providing her with a majority. The Electoral Commission (EC) has stated that there is no lawful reason for a postponement and noises from the army suggest they will not stage another coup. Indeed the army has offered to ferry ballot boxes and protect the polls, if requested by the EC. More problematic will be filling 95% of seats, with 28 of the 500 still having no candidate registered. Protests and blockades by the anti-government PDRC have succeeded in restricting registrations and interrupting official business. However, this success may sow the seeds of its own destruction. Support comes from the middle class, business people and royalists, who have much to lose if the economy is hurt. Violence is simmering, with a bomb in the crowd injuring scores of marchers. Markets and the Baht are weakening. If appetite for disruption starts to wane then the elections will go ahead, Yingluck will be returned and another three candidates may be found to meet the 95% requirement. Beware one other hurdle though. If any constituencies have turn out below 20%, the election could still be called invalid.

Answer: No

Selected Expert Answer from John Karslake:
Amid calls for her immediate resignation, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has called an election for 2nd Feb and the Thai election commission say there is no legal way for them to delay the vote. Protesters led by Suthep Thaugsuban's People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) are largely Southern (Bangkok) based middle class and Royalists demanding an end to corruption and the influence of Yingluck's brother, Thaksin, from exile. Anti-government Democrats have very little chance of winning an election, outnumbered by Yingluck's (northern) rural poor. The PDRC therefore wants to oust the government in favour of an unelected "people's council". There are many possibilities suggesting that a successful election, with the requirement for 95% of seats filled, is unlikely:
1. Violence escalates preventing polling or registrations for enough seats
2. Yingluck resigns as protesters manage to shut down government or even kidnap her and other ministers
3. There is an army coup like the one that ousted Thaksin
Any of these scenarios are highly possible and enough to derail the process.
Possible but less plausible is that Yingluck is able to make concessions which convince the PDRC to retreat, even if the business community tire of the cost of disruption and cease agitating.

Outcome: No

Comment on outcome from Mettletest Panellist:
The election process failed to be completed on the 2nd Feb. In over 10% of the electoral districts the opposition managed to disrupt voting with violence or the threat of violence. The required 95% of seats could not be filled and parliament cannot be convened. Yingluck Shinawatra remains merely caretaker prime minister. New polls are slated for 23rd of Feb. but the Electoral Commission is casting doubt on these being able to go ahead, unless the threats of further violence are removed and challenges to the legality of the elections are overcome. Thailand stays in a dangerous limbo. Yingluck Shinawatra commands a majority in the country but the opposition holds sway in the South and in Bangkok. Thailand has to hope that some truce can be negotiated between the government and the opposition, probably including guarantees that Thaksin Shinawatra will not be able to return without facing trial and that rice subsidies will be phased out. That might be enough for middle class self-interest to allow calm to be restored.