08/08/2016, 09.07
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Referendum in Thailand: Constitution approved, elections in 2017


About 61% of Thais voted yes to the Charter drawn up by the military. Turnout at 55%. Criticism of supression of “no” campaign in the weeks before the vote. From now on the Senate (appointed by the government) will elect the prime minister. Presence of independent observers during the vote prohibited.


Bangkok (AsiaNews / Agencies) - 50 million Thais voted yesterday to approve the draft constitution drawn up by the military junta. According to unofficial data, about 61% of eligible voters voted in favor of approval of the Charter which will replace that of 2014. The turnout was 55%, despite the massive campaign launched by the military to invite everyone to vote.

In addition to approving the Constitution, the referendum called for the acceptance of a measure enabling the Senate to join the lower house in the election of the prime minister. Even this measure was voted by a majority of "yes." The 250 members of the Senate are not elected by popular vote but appointed by the government.

Observers and activists criticized the junta for having suppressed the election campaign in favor of "no". In the days before vote the military arrested thousands of people and scattered the popular movement who opposed the new Constitution. The electoral commission banned the presence of independent observers during the counting of votes.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha said that the next general elections will be held towards the end of 2017 (probably in October). The referendum victory has boosted the general's political popularity ahead of his candidacy in the next elections.

The military junta has ruled Thailand since May 2014, when it took power in a "white coup", which interrupted years of clashes between the "red shirts" - who support former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, popular in the countryside and among the poorer classes - and the "yellow shirts", drawn from the urban class and the establishment.

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