Getting Up the Vote

Bangkok Reporting

On a lighter note, here is the latest in hard news from our Bangkok correspondent, H. Numan.

From The Bangkok Post:

Viagra stiffens up the vote in Thailand

Candidates in next month’s fiercely contested Thai election have been offering Viagra in exchange for votes, it was alleged Friday.

Elderly male voters are being wooed with the little blue pill used to treat sexual dysfunction at social functions, claimed Sayan Nopcha, a campaigner for the People Power Party (PPP) in Pathum Thani, near Bangkok.

“A politician is giving out Viagra to gain popularity and votes. I think this is a very bad method of vote buying,” Sayan told the Bangkok Post. He showed journalists two tablets as “proof” of his allegations and warned that cheap Viagra substitutes could be very damaging to the health of voters.

The December 23 general election is to return power to the people after the September 2006 coup d’etat that brought a military-appointed government to power.

The PPP, widely considered a proxy party for deposed prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, is fiercely contesting the election against 40 other parties for 480 seats in the lower house.

There are 4,200 candidates running for election. Critics of the ousted prime minister claim that his “Viagra” is his recent purchase of Manchester City Football Club in England to keep his name in the news in soccer mad Thailand. Manchester City recently signed up three young Thai players — unlikely drafts for a professional league team, but fascinating for Thai voters.

Vote buying is traditionally rampant in Thai elections where rural voters are more impressed by hard cash than superficial ideologies. The Election Commission has toughened up the rules so much this time that even giving away T-shirts and soft drinks can be censored.

Sayan refused to disclose who might be giving out the sex drug because he said it was difficult to prove. The wildly popular drug is supposed to be used only on doctor’s advice but can be bought over the counter in Thailand. However, it is too expensive for most Thais. (dpa)

Vote-buying forms part of the Thai political system. Everybody abhors it and everybody does it. Unlike other countries, Thai political parties are not the core of politics, but the individual politicians are. A politician forms the face and soul of a party, not the other way around.
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Parties form and dissolve pending current alliances between various politicians. It happens often that politicians who are offered better opportunities in other parties dissolve their party into the other party. Or, if they can do better outside the party, sent up a new party. Until the next alliance, that is.

In effect, the TRT, the biggest party of Thailand, was a one-man party. That they controlled an absolute majority in parliament is not relevant. It was the party set up and owned by Thaksin Chinawatra, the now ousted premier.

He was ousted not by popular demand, but far more by other politicians who saw there wasn’t enough left over of the pie for them.

A vote is generally worth Bt. 200 — 500 ($5 — 12,50), depending on the position of the voter. A poor peasant in Isarn (very poor area in the Northeast) is not much worth. The vote (and voting ‘advice’) of his Puu Yai Baan (village headman) is worth much more. Poor peasants often expect a bribe, and need this to supplement their meager income.

A tablet of Viagra costs about Bt 1500, so I am pretty confident that those enterprising politicians ship Kamagra in bulk from India, where each sachet costs Bt. 10. I’d be surprised if a villager would sell his vote for just one scr — pardon me — tablet. A package of 10 would be different, of course. A win-win situation for all: the poor villager gets 10 sachets of fun, and the politician saves at least 50% per voter.

This was Bangkok reporting,
H. Numan.

3 thoughts on “Getting Up the Vote

  1. Is it really:

    …are being wooed with the little blue pill used to treat sexual dysfunction at social functions…

    Or instead:

    …are being wooed at social functions with the little blue pill used to treat sexual dysfunction…

    Sorry. I could not resist the potential Freudian slip in the grammar. Now back to the “G” rating.

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