BANGKOK (THE NATION/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Thailand's website for early-voting registration crashed on Monday (Jan 28) morning after a huge number of voters rushed to secure their balloting rights, leading to speculation that the upcoming election could see a high turnout.
The March 24 poll will be the country's first general election in seven years. Early voting this year will take place from March 4 to 17.
The online registration opened after midnight on the website of the Department of Public Administration. But the website went down in the morning after too many voters tried to access the site at the same time.
The Election Commission's (EC) deputy secretary-general Nat Laosisavakul said the crash was due to a large number of people entering the website. The failure, in particular, affected those registering for overseas voting, he said.
But the issue was resolved soon after and from 8.30am to 9am on Monday, at least 1,000 voters had successfully registered to vote early outside their home constituencies, he added. The registration is also available offline via the department's offices or Thai embassies until Feb 19, he said.
Despite the incident, the EC said online registration remains the most convenient channel for voters, adding that it expects the total number of those registering to exceed 2 million.
Mr Nat said the rush among voters to register could have been due to the new electoral system to be implemented at the upcoming election that makes every vote count.
Unlike previous elections, the upcoming polls will be conducted under a new system following changes to the country's constitution in 2017, which was drafted by the military following their takeover three years earlier.
Under the mixed member apportionment system, voters will cast a single, fused ballot for a candidate instead of casting two separate votes as in the previous election in 2011, where voters selected both a candidate and a party for the party-list.
The total number of votes a party receives nationwide via this single vote will determine the allocation of party-list members of Parliament allocated to each party.
According to data provided by the EC website, in 2011 and 2007, 3 million and 2.3 million people respectively registered to vote early.
STARVED OF ELECTIONS
Political scientists saw the crash of the website yesterday as a demonstration of voter enthusiasm and speculated that the turnout of voters might be high this year.
Veteran political analyst Sukhum Nualsakul, former rector of Ramkhamhaeng University in Bangkok, said on Monday that the enthusiasm could be due to people not being able to vote for many years. "It's been seven years since the last successful election. That's almost two terms. People must be so frustrated," he said. "It's such a long time since they voted. So, they would want to express their political views through the ballot in this general election."
Another political scientist, Dr Attasit Pankaew, from Bangkok's Thammasat University, said that it was a good sign that the registration website had crashed. "The website going down means that at some point, more people tried to access it than the system could take," he said. "This is a very positive thing. The fact that they tried to register on the very first day shows that the voters are indeed very alert." He said that the country's failure to hold any general election in the past years could have contributed to the enthusiasm.
Meanwhile, political parties are humming with activity now that the election date has been announced.
The Pheu Thai Party's secretary-general, Phumtham Wechayachai, said on Monday that the party's members had already agreed on two PM candidates: its core leader Khunying Sudarat Keyuraphan and popular figure Chatchart Sittipan.
The party would submit three names, the most number allowed by the law, but had yet to finalise the third candidate, he said. The party was also working on finalising its list of MP candidates and expected the final decision to be made this week, according to Mr Phumtham.
Separately, Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva revealed on Monday that the party was considering a candidates list for 150 constituencies as well as the PM candidate. The names were expected to be finalised by Feb 1, he said.