present their interests as the national interest
(Callahan 2005, 108; see alsoAnderson 1977; Anek 1993, 1996; Ockey 2004, 151
71). In perpetuating a nar-rative that portrays villagers as obstacles to democracy, this discourse fails tolocate vote buying in its historical context and silences the voices of villagers who are no less outraged by vote buying than their fellow urban citizens.Despite the growing recognition of the importance of rural voters in establish-ing a democratic nation, recent studies of electoral politics have focusedon national, provincial, and municipal elections. Contemporary ethnographicstudies of village politics are almost nonexistent. The first generation of anthropol-ogists and political scientists conducted their fieldwork during the period from the1950s to 1970s, an era characterized by military dictatorships and a rising rural-based communist insurgency. Although there were few national elections, villageelections were generally portrayed as uncontested and consensual.
As provincialtowns expanded from the 1980s to the present, scholarly attention shifted to therise of new urban
in municipal, provincial, and nationalelectoral politics (see, e.g., Arghiros 2001; Callahan and McCargo 1996; Fishel2001; Hewison 1993; McVey 2000; Murashima 1987; Nelson 1998; Pasuk andSungsidh 1994; Robertson 1996; Turton 1989). Although various authors repeat-edly noted that these provincial godfathers depended on village and subdistrictheads to act as their vote canvassers, Daniel Arghiros (2001) was the first torefocus attention on the impact of these externalpoliticians oninternalvillageelec-toral politics. Building on his anthropological study of a 1990 election for
,or subdistrict chief, in Ayuthaya Province in central Thailand, Arghiros concludedthat by the 1990s, vote buying in local village elections had become
(2001, 71; see also Takagi 1999). If the vote buying that began to characterizenational elections in the 1980s once seemed a boon to villagers, its penetrationinto village electoral politics in the 1990s was increasingly seen as their bane.In April 1995, I had occasion to observe an election for the position of
(subdistrict) in Chiang Mai Province in northern Thailand, which, for the purposes of this essay, I shall call Tambon Thungnaa.
Three of the
stwelve village heads competed in a bitter campaign. When one of the candidatesbegan to engage in dirty tricks and vote buying,
the other two candidates andtheir supporters were outraged. Blocked from campaigning freely in other villages,
Herbert P. Phillips (1958) provides an early anthropological account of a national election. The ear-liest mentions of vote buying in village elections occur in the central region. A losing candidate in a 1953 election for village head suggested the winner had bribed the district officer (Kaufman 1960,75
78). Steven Piker (1983, 143) mentions vote buying in Ayuthaya in the 1960s. Michael H.Nelson (1998, 94, 241) notes vote buying in Chachoengsao in 1985 and in a
election in1991. Daniel Arghiros (2001, 74) dates the vote buying in a village head election in Ayuthaya to1988. Ryo Takagi (1999) notes vote buying in an election for
in Nakhon Sawan in 1997.
To protect confidentiality, the names of the candidates, village, and
elections described by Arghiros (2001) and Takagi (1999), both candidates bought votes. Nelson (1998, 214) notes a 1991 election voided by district officials because of heavy votebuying.
470 Katherine A. Bowie