Thailand has an interesting way of encouraging the public to vote. The government likes to celebrate every major election by banning all sale of alcohol for nights before and during the election period. This also includes the election days for people who are registered to vote in another province and elect to vote during the preliminary voting period instead of going to their home provinces to vote during the main election period.
During the weekend of different elections, pubs and bars all over Thailand close completely or are limited to food and drinks that are non-alcoholic. Needless to say, election weekends can be a major pain in your side if you needed to get out that particular weekend. For the the preliminary voting period, most workers are still in the city and only the late night activities are limited. For the main election period, Bangkok virtually empties as the workers flock to their home provinces to cast their votes. Often the government will declare the following Monday a work holiday for the main election period so that the workers will have enough time to travel back from their homes without having to worry about their employers docking them for missing work.
Other than allowing the voting public to go home to vote instead of working non-stop in the hospitality industry in major cities, the ban on alcohol also serves to ensure that the voters are not hung over on the day that they make their decision and cast their votes for their desired candidates. Restaurants, mini-marts and supermarkts also enforce the ban on alcohol sales and it can be difficult to buy alcohol during the election period from the Friday before the election onwards.
It is unknown how much the ban on alcohol actually increases voter turn out at the polls. A late night of drinking can make a person rather lethargic the next day and even if you are not hung over, you may be less likely to do your civic duty if you are tired from the previous night. At the very least the average working man is more likely to be sober when he shows up to vote because he can’t afford to stock up on his beers before hand. For those of us who can buy our alcohol ahead of time, we’ll just have to settle for a relaxing evening at home drinking a few beers instead of the normal lively club scene until 2 o’clock in the morning.