Thursday, May 25, 2017
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Why I exercised my right to vote

Posted by pakin On August - 8 - 2016

THE rule allowing people aged 18 to vote in the referendum has resulted in a number of young voters becoming eligible for the first time to decide whether they approve or disapprove of the charter draft. But 18-year-olds are not the only new players in this voting game.

For one aged 24, and having had the voting right for seven years, I never once stepped into a polling booth to cast a ballot – not until yesterday. Well, for one thing, I would say there had only been one election since I turned 18 until now.

That vote took place in 2011, following the red-shirt protests and brought Yingluck Shinawatra to power.Yingluck became Thailand’s first female prime minister.

The turn-out then was as high as 75 per cent thanks to the high tension between colour-coded factions competing against one another to bring to power their favoured political party.

But I was not one of them.

Back then, I was 19 years old, in college and far away from home. No, I did not have to pay some Bt2,000 for an airfare to go and vote at home. The state provided enough convenience such as voting outside the constituency and advance voting, encouraging the eligible to turn out. Still, I did not bother.

I did not feel I was part of the struggle between the two factions. I viewed politics and government as something very distant from me, which would not affect me, never mind who won the election.

As a member of a middle-class family with both parents working for the government, I cared neither about the universal healthcare scheme nor credit cards for farmers. And as a nerd who only paid attention to how to ace an exam, I was not very interested in killing an evil regime and backing a decent person to be a prime minister either.

Most importantly, I had zero faith that my vote would count for anything, that it would matter, that it would actually help shape the country. So, no, thank you. I’d rather let the chance pass.

There was another election in 2014, if it could be counted as one. Most people did not exercise their right because of tension and the possibility of violence breaking out. I am not going to lie. I did not think I would vote regardless of the political situation.

The same reasons as in 2011 still applied; I did not have faith that my ballot would mean anything. But things are different this year. I was determined to go the extra mile to vote because I am unhappy with the current regime that has been in power since the coup.

I may have little faith in politics but it does not take much faith anyway to believe that Thailand can definitely do better than what we have now.

So, yesterday I set my alarm clock for 6.30am and paid Bt20 for a motorcycle-taxi ride to a polling station for the first time since I turned 18, seven years ago, to vote.

By getting fingerprinted before voting, I am not sure whether the force of my impression would be enough to steer the country out of this mess. What I know is that by impressing the fingerprint I have relieved my bitter frustrations with the regime. I just hope they will not be around for too long.

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