The rural constitution and the everyday politics of elections in Northern Thailand

Andrew Walker

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52 Citations (Scopus)


The Thai coup of 19 September 2006 derived ideological legitimacy from the view that the Thaksin government's electoral mandate was illegitimate because it had been "bought" from an unsophisticated and easily manipulated electorate. There is nothing new about this argument, nor its use in justifying military interference. Political commentators have asserted regularly that the Thai populace lacks the basic characteristics essential for a modern democratic citizenry. Accounts of the deficiencies of rural voters often focus on their parochialism, their lack of political sophistication, the vulnerability to vote buying and the influence of electoral canvassers (hua khanaen). This article challenges this negative portrayal of rural electoral culture. Drawing on ethnographic field work in northern Thailand, it is argued that the everyday politics of elections is informed by a range of different electoral values that shape judgements about legitimate, and illegitimate, political power in electoral contexts. These local values can be usefully thought of as comprising a "rural constitution".

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)84-105
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Contemporary Asia
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Democracy
  • Localism
  • Rural constitution
  • Thailand
  • Vote-buying
  • Voter rationality

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