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Duncan McCargo -- Thailand's ambiguous referendum result

Turnout was relatively poor in Thailand's Aug. 7 referendum compared to the last time in 2007, but the vote was more decisively in favor of the latest constitution. (Photo by Keiichiro Asahara)

Thailand's junta can breathe a sigh of relief, but only for the moment. The result of its Aug. 7 referendum on a new constitution has to be measured against a similar poll held in 2007: on both occasions, voters approved a charter drafted by a military-appointed committee created in the wake of a coup d'etat. In this case, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha's National Council for Peace and Order achieved a 61% per cent approval rate for the draft constitution, according to preliminary results from the country's Election Commission -- as against 57% in favor nine years earlier. It is an improvement, of sorts, but not a dramatic one, and enormous bureaucratic effort went into achieving this outcome.

On the face of it, it may seem surprising that the majority of Thai voters expressed support for a charter that will usher in a wholly unelected upper house for parliament -- with six of the 250 seats reserved for senior military officers -- and leaves scope for appointment of a non-elected prime minister.

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