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Thailand Voters Get To Vote For The First Time Since 2014 Coup

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A Thai officer checks a clock to commence voting at a polling station in Bangkok, Thailand, March 24, 2019. Thailand's first general election since the military seized power in a 2014 coup has begun. VOA

Voters in Thailand were heading to the polls Sunday in the country’s first election since the military ousted an elected government in a 2014 coup.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, the army chief who led the coup, is hoping to extend his hold on power after engineering a new political system that aims to stifle the influence of big political parties not aligned with the military.

About 51 million Thais are eligible to vote. Leaders of political parties opposed to military rule have urged a high turnout as the only way to derail Prayuth’s plans.

The junta leader was among the first to vote in the Thai capital Bangkok, arriving in a Mercedes, after polling booths opened at 8 a.m.

Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha casts his vote at a polling station in Bangkok, Thailand, March 24, 2019, during the nation's first general election since the military seized power in a 2014 coup.
Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha casts his vote at a polling station in Bangkok, Thailand, March 24, 2019, during the nation’s first general election since the military seized power in a 2014 coup. VOA

Speaking to reporters after casting his ballot, Prayuth said, “I hope everyone helps each other by going to vote today as it’s everyone’s right.”

The election is the latest chapter in a nearly two-decade struggle between conservative forces including the military and the political machine of Thaksin Shinawatra, a tycoon who upended tradition-bound Thailand’s politics with a populist political revolution.

Thaksin was ousted in a 2006 military coup and now lives in exile abroad to avoid a prison term, but parties allied with him have won every election since 2001. His sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, who led the government that was ousted in 2014, also fled the country after what supporters said was a politically motivated corruption prosecution.

Thailand’s powerful King Maha Vajiralongkorn issued a statement on the eve of the election that said the role of leaders is stop “bad people” from gaining power and causing chaos.

Invoking a speech by his father, the previous Thai king who died in 2016 after reigning for seven decades, Vajiralongkorn said not all citizens can be transformed into good people so leaders must be given support in ruling to create a peaceful nation.

He urged government officials, soldiers and civil servants to look after national security.

Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, leader of Future Forward Party, poses as he casts his vote during general election at a polling station in Bangkok, March 24, 2019.
Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, leader of Future Forward Party, poses as he casts his vote during general election at a polling station in Bangkok, March 24, 2019. VOA

It was the monarch’s second notable intervention in politics recently. Last month, he demanded his sister Princess Ubolratana Mahidol withdraw as a prime ministerial candidate for a small Thaksin-allied party within 24 hours of her announcement.

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One of the first people to vote, 92-year-old Prabha Svarachorn, echoed the royal statement.

“I come to vote whenever there is an election,” she said. “I think it’s our duty to vote for good people. I would like people to come to vote.” (VOA)

Next Story

Microsoft Tests Software Called “Election Guard” To Make Voting Secure

Microsoft tests its newly-developed software to ensure votes are not altered

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Microsoft has begun testing its free open-source software called "ElectionGuard"that aims to secure votes. Pixabay

Microsoft has begun testing its free open-source software called “ElectionGuard” in a small Wisconsin town in the US that aims to make voting more secure, verifiable and efficient.

“ElectionGuard” will enable end-to-end verification of elections, open results to third-party organisations for secure validation, and allow individual voters to confirm their votes were correctly counted.

It enables government entities, news outlets, human rights organisations or anyone else to build additional verifiers that independently can certify election results have been accurately counted and have not been altered, according to the company. The software would create a paper trail and assure voters their votes were properly tallied.

“On Tuesday, Fulton residents are using the technology while choosing who will join the local school board and hold a seat on Wisconsin’s state Supreme Court,” reports CNBC. With the test, the company aims to see if voters like the experience and make sure everything works fine.

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“ElectionGuard” by Microsoft will enable end-to-end verification of election. Pixabay

In May last year, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella announced “ElectionGuard”. According to Tom Burt, Corporate Vice President, Customer Security and Trust, voting system manufacturers will be free to build ElectionGuard into their systems in a variety of ways.

“These are exciting steps that enable individual voters to confirm their vote was properly counted, and assures those voters using an ElectionGuard system of the most secure and trustworthy vote in the history of the US,” Burt said in a recent blog post. “ElectionGuard” is not intended to replace paper ballots but rather to supplement and improve systems that rely on them, and it is not designed to support internet voting.

The software provides each voter a tracker with a unique code that can be used to follow an encrypted version of the vote through the entire election process via a web portal provided by election authorities.

During the process of vote-casting, voters have an optional step that allows them to confirm that their trackers and encrypted votes accurately reflect their selections. But once a vote is cast, neither the tracker nor any data provided through the web portal can be used to reveal the contents of the vote.

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After the election is complete, the tracker codes can be used by voters to confirm that their votes were not altered or tampered with and that they were properly counted, said Microsoft.

On the security front, “ElectionGuard” uses something called homomorphic encryption – which enables mathematical procedures “like counting – to be done with fully encrypted data”. (IANS)