Regional Voting: Comparing 2019 to 2011
Updated: Nov 26, 2019
By Joel Selway
***Note: Map Updated with Results Reported at 100% of counting by the Electoral Commission of Thailand (ECT). A couple of errata were also corrected in Sa Kaew and Samut Prakan provinces.
Picture: Comparing election results in 2011 (Left) and 2019 (Right).
Source: Author’s own creation (using a Wikimedia Commons provincial map as the base)
Pheu Thai remains strong in the Upper North and Northeast, but other parties have eaten into their support in the Lower North, Extreme Lower Northeast, and the Chao Praya Delta surrounding the capital Bangkok. The Democrat Party experienced its worst showing in the South for decades.
If the current results of Thailand’s first elections in eight years hold, the efforts of Thailand’s ruling junta to reduce the popularity of the pro-Thaksin Pheu Thai party will have been wildly successful. From winning 48.1% of the popular vote in the 2011 elections, Pheu Thai’s support has plummeted to 7,423,361 of 33,353,799 votes, or just 22.26%. The Electoral Commission of Thailand (ECT) stopped releasing returns with 94% of the vote counted. While the ECT may announce the winner within the next day or two, it has said that it may not release the vote tallies across the country until the official deadline of May 9th.
Putting aside charges of irregularities (from an extraordinary high proportion of invalid ballots, as well as reported voter turnouts in excess of 100% in some constituencies) that could change this analysis, what do we learn from the results so far?
The Upper North
The territory of the former kingdom of Lanna, incorporated into Thailand as late as 1899, and the homeland of exiled Prime Ministers Thaksin and Yingluck Shinawatra, continue to exhibit strong support for Pheu Thai. The Future Forward Party (FF) has made slight inroads into this traditional region of support in Chiang Rai (where FF won 2/7 constituencies), and Phrae (where it won both constituencies). The junta’s Palang Pracharat party (PPRP) won ⅔ constituencies in Payao province. However, Pheu Thai won all nine consituencies in Chiangmai, all four in Lampang, all three in Nan, and both seats in each of Lampoon and Uttaradit. The Upper North, in sum, is still solidly Pheu Thai with 25/31 constituencies in total.
The Lower North had always been an area of contestation for Pheu Thai. The Democrats won the plurality of provinces in the last elections. The Democrats have been replaced, almost across the board, by PPRP. PPRP has also mopped up some provinces that went Pheu Thai in the last few elections, looking as if it has solidly captured this region. Bhumjaithai also captured a few seats as part of its Central Line, stretching horizontally almost the entire breadth of the country from Upper Kanchanaburi in the West to Srisaket in the East.
The Northeast (Upper and Central)
The region of the Thai-Lao (ethno-linguistically similar to the Lao of neighboring country Laos) and also the area with the largest number of electoral seats, the Northeast is of great importance to Pheu Thai, and has been its most consistent supporter. We see this continue in the 2019 elections. Though a few seats fell to PPRP and Bhumjaithai, this remains the heartland of Pheu Thai support.
This is the heartland of Bhumjai Thai, centered around Buriram province. Bhumjaithai has extended its influence to neighboring provinces, and combined with its seats in the Central region and the Lower North, there appears to be a consistent regional pattern emerging for this minor party over the past two elections.
Central (excl. Bangkok)
With the introduction of PPRP and FF, the Central region is its usual patchwork of parties. PPRP has pushed the Democrats out of the Western provinces. It also joins FF in pushing the Democrats out of the Eastern seaboard. Chart Thai (in grey) retains its traditional support around Supphanburi province, but Pheu Thai has still held onto several provinces as well.
The capital used to be a two horse race between Pheu Thai and the Democrats. Pre-election polls predicted a repeat, with 22 for the Democrats and 8 for Pheu Thai. They were seriously wrong. Bangkok has become a three-horse race, and the Democrats are not even in the game. PPRP took most of the seats (14/30), with Pheu Thai and FF splitting the remainder (8 each). PPRP also took 6/7 seats in neighboring Samutprakan. The capital region was clearly PPRP’s stronghold in these elections.
The South has been the heartland of Democrat support for decades. The results in 2019 came as a huge shock. Pre-election polls indicated they would largely repeat the success of the 2011 elections, losing a few seats here and there. However, both PPRP and Bhumjaithai secured more seats than predicted.
Who Did the Two Main Parties Lose Out To and Where?
The overall results show that the Democrat party only won half as many votes as pre-election polls suggested. They lost their support mostly to the PPRP in Bangkok, the Lower North, the West, parts of the Eastern Seaboard, and even parts of the South. FF eroded some of the Democrats’ support in Bangkok and the Eastern Seaboard.
Pheu Thai also secured about 70 seats less than most pre-election polls suggested they would. These seats were lost in the Eastern half of the Central region, and the Lower regions of the North and Northeast. Visually, PPRP has pushed support for Pheu Thai concentrically away from the capital making it more reliant on support from the Thai Lanna and Thai Lao populations of the Upper North and Upper and Central Northeast respectively. This possible ethno-regionalization of Pheu Thai is explored in another piece, here (coming soon).
This new party with strong anti-military credentials appealed broadly across the country. Its victories in Bangkok and the East surprised most observers, but the majority of their seats will still come from the party list where they are the top seat-getting party where they will pick up 58 of the 150 up for grabs.
The junta’s party picked up the majority of its support from the Central region, including Bangkok. Some of this spread to the Lower North, who also speak Central Thai as well as parts of the South. It mostly looks as if PPRP picked up support from the Democrat Party. Perhaps this was inevitable, as the Democrat Party had been the party of conservatives. However, Abhisit’s announcement that the party would not support Prayuth as Prime Minister may have been influential in swaying parts of the electorate against it.
If these results hold, and if they are genuine, we are witnessing a dramatic shift in Thailand’s electoral map. Regional support still appears to be strong, though different parties are moving into some regions. The Upper North and Upper/Central Northeast remain Pheu Thai strongholds. The PPRP seems to occupy the Central region, including Bangkok and environs. And the Democrats still hold the majority of seats in the South. Bhumjaithai might be establishing a horizontal region across the belly of the country, and Future Forward seems popular in the lower east of the Central region.