Dec 31, 2013

Thailand - Thai Parties and ‘Lucky’ Numbers

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BANGKOK – Given a bit of a superstitious streak in Thailand, it’s no wonder that Thai political parties might have been hoping for “lucky” numbers in a draw last week to determine their order on the Feb. 2 election ballot.

The favorite ballot place is definitely No. 1, because that stands for being the first. That number went to the Chart Pattana (National Development) Party, a coalition member of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s government.

Another desired number is nine, which in Thai is the same as the word meaning “step forward.” That number went to the Pheu Santi (For Peace) Party, a small and newly formed political group.

A less-lucky and somewhat less-desirable number is six, which sounds like “falling” in Thai. It went to the Bhumjaithai (Thai Pride) Party, which has been a part of the opposition coalition.

The upcoming election, called after Ms. Yingluck dissolved the Lower House on Dec. 9, will determine who will control Thailand’s 500-member House of Representatives.

Traditionally, parties wishing to end up with “lucky” numbers would want to register in the morning of the first day of the registration. Thirty of them managed to register, but none got to draw before Thursday because of antigovernment demonstrations.

Another 23 political parties, who did not report to the independent Election Commission by the morning of the first day of registration, have automatically been assigned numbers from 31 to 53.

The ruling Pheu Thai Party drew the number 15. The number has no significance in Thailand.  But some superstitious Thais might read it to mean the party wasn’t especially lucky because it won’t won’t be among the top-listed choices for voters.

In the last polls in 2011, Ms. Yingluck’s Pheu Thai Party won in a landslide after it drew the lucky No. 1.

A couple of years ago, the opposition Democrat Party drew number 10. The number has no significance in terms of superstition. But it left the party lower on the list of voter choices. To improve its chances, it took the label “The Conqueror of Ten Directions” from one of the country’s fictional heroes to make its number more memorable.

The opposition Democrat Party is boycotting the upcoming elections, so it didn’t draw a number.

In addition to the air of superstition around some specific numbers, political parties want to be high on the ballot to get more voter attention.  Which raises another form of superstition — was a party lucky in the draw, given its position on the ballot?

The ballot drawing has traditionally been a colorful and exciting event. Parties and supporters packed into a stadium and responded to their draw with thunderous applause — even if it wasn’t the best number.

But this time, the ongoing antigovernment protests to oust Ms. Yingluck and her Pheu Thai Party overshadowed the drawing. Two people — a policeman and a protester– were killed during a clash last Thursday.

Will the Feb. 2 election show there is luck behind certain numbers? Some Thais surely will believe so.

Nopparat Chaichalearmmongkol

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