According to preliminary results based on 94 percent of the votes counted Sunday evening it has become obvious that a majority of Thai voters have accepted the controversial military-backed constitution that will pave the way for a general election sometime next year. But even with an election on the horizon now, the new charter rather implies prolonged military control than a return to full-blown democracy in the Western sense of the word.
While voter turnout was relatively low at just over 50% and opposition was strong in the northeastern region a.k.a. Isaan, preliminary results of the Sunday referendum show that 61.4 percent nationwide voted in favour of the military-drafted charter while only 38.6 percent voted against it.
Full results are expected on Wednesday, however, the gap is wide enough not to affect the result.
A second question asking voters whether the Senate should be allowed to join the House of Representatives in selecting a prime minister also received approval, however with only 58% voting in favour of the controversial clause.
In the lead-up to the referendum harsh laws were put in place by the junta, effectively banning any debate about the draft charter and campaigning ahead of the vote. Several opposition figures and activists were arrested.
Critics, including Thailand’s major political parties, also said the constitution was undemocratic, with probably the most controversial issue being the composition of the Senate, which will be fully military-appointed under the new constitution, not elected. The charter also allows for the Senate to stage a no-confidence vote against a future elected government and a non-MP “outsider” to become prime minister, so the real power may effectively remain with the military.
Many voters also said they lacked adequate information about the draft charter and its more controversial clauses to make an informed choice.
In related news, the alcohol ban that was in force from Saturday 6 p.m. will also be over at midnight, and bars and clubs will be open as usual tomorrow.