Thailand held its long-delayed municipal elections this past Sunday. This was the second round of local elections, following the polls held last year for Provincial Administration Organization (PAO) seats.
Thailand uses the thesaban system to govern municipalities. According to this system, there are three types of municipalities depending on the total population, population density and gross income: thesaban Nakhon (city municipalities), thesaban mueang (town municipalities) and thesaban tambon (sub-district municipalities). Both mayors and municipal councilors are elected.
Municipal governments control large budgets; Nonthaburi municipality, for example, has the highest annual budget of any municipality at around 775 million baht. This makes the local elections hugely significant towards local policymaking.
The municipal elections made clear a trend already observed at last year’s PAO elections: at the local level, machine politics and political dynasties still hold great sway even as Thailand’s national elections have become more ideologically-charged and policy-oriented.