The Election Process

The month of November is election month. Even though my village had it for an unusual reason (the Nioke being behind bars), the election process is similar all over the country. Frist is the marketing. Posters are put up in key parts of town–I would guess they were 2 x 4 feet. They had a picture of the person running and his “number”. Each candidate got a number based on the order they officially signed up to run. Then, my favorite, are the pickup trucks with a poster of the person on the outside and filled with speakers in the back screaming “Buh noon! Buh noon!” (Number One! Number One!-or whatever number candidate they were trying to advertise), followed by a nice jingle. I guess this takes the place of the annoying television ads Iowa always seems to get.

At the tessaban site, we had countless meetings about the importance of voting. I was able to follow these meetings to a certain point and then I was lost…for instance why the fact that Thailand has fallen to number 3 in rice exportation has anything to do with a small town election.

Near the end, we wanted to make sure everyone knew how important it was to vote. So important that they took kids out of school (both primary and secondary) and assigned them to different parts of town to remind people to vote. I got lost trying to find my group, so I don’t know how effective this method is.

The election day was also interesting. It was on a Saturday, and I am pretty sure everyone in the tessaban got paid overtime in cash. There was a very big poster resembling a baseball scoreboard and about the same size. The scoreboard had each of the four candidates’ names down one side and each neighborhood running horizontally. The village members were able to vote in their neighborhood’s (Mu) town centers until 3 pm. Then the voting boxes with all the ballots from each Mu were shipped to the Province capital to be counted. The tessaban workers sat in the town center meeting house while the results were sent electronically. Once a Mu’s votes had been fully counted, a tessaban worker would walk out with the results and write them up on the baseball-like scoreboard. It was fun to watch. The scoreboard was placed on the edge of the soccer field in front of the tessaban, so you had all these people on their motorcycles drive up to see the results.

Like most elections in the US, I went to bed before I knew the results. “Buh noon” ended up winning. He was with the old party, so everybody high-up that had to leave is now back. There was only a 46-vote difference between him and the second place winner. I wonder how much money was passed under the table to buy the votes (It’s very common here).

I am glad the election is over. It was a lot of formal meetings and confusion. The only thing I really miss about the election period, actually, is the loudspeaker trucks—they were a good, reliable wakeup call at 7:00 am.

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