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According to a poll, Thailand is divided over whether the country is ready for democracy. While 37 per cent of Thais support postponing elections until 2018 after the mourning period, another 32 per cent believe elections should be held this year as per the junta’s road-map for national development.

The findings come from a Suan Dusit poll of 1,192 Thais surveyed from 2–7 January 2017 on the theme ‘What do the people think about national reforms and elections?’, reports Thai Rath Online.

Overall, the survey results reflect a society divided over the best path forward for Thailand’s political development.

Has the junta developed the nation?

When asked whether the junta’s governance has improved the people’s livelihood, 36 per cent of Thais believe they have observed concrete improvements, with some respondents citing the junta’s 20 year road-map for national reform. A further 18 per cent of respondents believe the junta leader is at least genuinely determined to achieve reform.

However, 30 per cent of Thais do not believe the country has developed under the junta. This group believes many problems have accumulated over the last decade, problems that will take considerable time to solve. A further 17 per cent of Thais agree that there have not been concrete reforms and that political conflict still disturbs the country.  

Is national development related to elections?

When asked whether national development is related to elections, 71 per cent of respondents answered positively, saying that national development could help the electoral process have greater transparency, be fairer and have stricter oversight.

29 per cent of respondents, however, disagreed saying that corruption has occurred in the past even when preventative measures were in place. This is because the roots of corruption lie in the conscience of politicians themselves, rather than the system.

What should the government choose first: elections or development?

42 per cent of respondents believe national development needs to come before elections. Once problems in development are solved, the country will be ready for elections without risking conflict.

However, 38 per cent of respondents believe it is elections that should take precedence over national development. Only this can result in a government that represents the people and which is a product of a democratic system.

A further 21 percent of respondents believe national development and elections can come simultaneously. This group says national development is a lengthy process, while elections are themselves one crucial part of national development.

Is Thailand ready for elections?

Only a very slim majority — 51 per cent — believes Thailand is unready for elections, saying the country remains troubled by political conflict. This group worries elections will disturb peace by resulting in political mobilisation. Moreover, the problems that trouble Thai politics are difficult to solve.

However, 49 per cent believes Thailand is already ready for elections as per the junta’s road map, and would like to see the country governed by democracy. They feel politically awakened and see importance in elections.

Is delaying elections acceptable?

When asked about the junta’s intentions to postpone elections until 2018, 37 per cent agreed this was a favourable move because this year will have various important royal ceremonies that should not be disturbed. Moreover, the country remains in mourning period. Delaying elections will allow politicians, parties and the Election Commission of Thailand to ready themselves for the process.

Some 32 per cent disagreed with delaying democracy, saying that straying from the junta’s roadmap would result in only further problems. One possible effect would be damaging the country’s international image.

A further 31 per cent were not sure about the appropriate time for elections, since the country’s political situation seems presently in flux. They are happy to leave the decision with the government, being more concerned with their daily livelihoods.

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