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Will the Thai elections be free and fair?

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BANGKOK - On March 24, more than 40 million registered Thai voters are expected to go to the polls for the country’s first elections since 2011 and its first since the military takeover in 2014. Are these elections going to be free and fair?

Freedom, in the context of elections, pertains to the voters and candidates’ opportunity to participate in the election without coercion or restrictions of any kind. Fairness, on the other hand, refers to impartiality in the application of the election law, constitutional provisions and other regulations. The upcoming elections face challenges on both grounds.

At the very best, certain developments — for example, cases against political parties — will one way or another affect the perception of a free and fair political environment in the country regardless of the facts or evidence.

On Feb. 27, the Constitutional Court ordered the dissolution of Thai Raksa Chart, a party allegedly linked to exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, for hostility to the constitutional monarchy by nominating Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya as the party’s candidate for prime minister, which is considered a violation against the spirit of the constitution and the country’s long-standing tradition.

Furthermore, the leader and members of a new party, Future Forward, were charged under the Computer Crime Act. If found guilty, they could face a fine up to 100,000 Thai baht (¥351,763) and a........

© The Japan Times