The shambolic live online reporting of the unofficial vote count as it unfurled last Sunday night put that understanding to the test. Contradicting figures reported for candidates’ votes and even just the votes counted overall confused observers – and the voters themselves – into wondering just what was happening to the votes.
That fear was doubly entrenched for those realising the election was not going the way they wanted, to the point that many felt that the only explanation for the impossible information they were being fed was that they were witnessing the results being manipulated, albeit in the most inept way possible.
Of course that was possible, but in all reality it was also very unlikely that the ineptitude was so obvious, even in Thailand. One would expect a much better effort if one were to cheat an entire nation of their votes.
The silence from election officials only fed those fears. It wasn’t until Monday afternoon that Election Commission Secretary-General Jarungwit Phumma in Bangkok gave any explanation of what had happened, and even then he tried to bury the fact that the “rapid report” app for polling station chiefs to report their immediate unofficial vote counts had been compromised.
By then, any faith in whether the actual results were accurate or genuine in any way was blown.
For Phuket, that was until PEC Director Nutthawat stepped up and did what his Bangkok superiors failed to do, giving a full explanation of what had happened on election night, and the immediate action taken to ensure the vote count was, finally, accurate.
Mr Nutthawat has thrown down the gauntlet. People can challenge the results, but he is confident an open recount of the votes cast at any polling station in Phuket will stand up to independent scrutiny. It’s that level of action that explains why even Raywat Areerob, the defeated long-standing Democrat, on Monday posted on his own Facebook page, “I accept the result.” Not much to argue there.
Decide for yourself whether or not you believe the Phuket election results tallied by the PEC, challenge them if you want. But you cannot deny that while the rest of the country continues to bumble along in figuring out whether they trust the results, election officials in Phuket have stood up to be counted for their part. In that, they deserve praise.