Election commissions and non-democratic outcomes: Thailand’s contentious 2019 election

Petra Alderman, Saowanee T Alexander

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Responding to a recent call for more in-depth qualitative studies of electoral management bodies (EMBs), this article examines formally independent EMBs by using the example of the Election Commission of Thailand (ECT) and the role it played in the recent 2019 election. We argue that in non-democratic regimes with high levels of political polarisation and entrenched elites, formal EMB independence may become part of the problem why elections fail. It creates opportunities for long-term EMB capture by actors who wield power outside of formal politics and are unaccountable to public interest. In case of the ECT, this has led to the decreasing electoral standards culminating in the highly contentious 2019 election where the ECT’s administrative efficiency and effectiveness of voting came secondary to pleasing the entrenched old Thai elite. Its conduct has reduced Thailand’s prospects for a peaceful transition to democratic rule as those who oppose the country’s old elite have increasingly limited opportunities to challenge it through formal means.

Original languageEnglish
Early online date15 Apr 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 15 Apr 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The research for this article was part of a larger project on the 2019 Thai election generously funded by the Unites States Institute of Peace (Grant SG-477-15), for whose support the authors are very grateful.


  • Thailand
  • elections
  • electoral management bodies
  • independence
  • non-democratic regimes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Political Science and International Relations


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