I haven’t posted in a while because I’ve been so busy. Hopefully I’ll have some posts soon. In the meantime, I wanted to comment on the Thai elections held last Sunday. I wrote a post on Thai politics in 2009, and one more in 2010, so I guess by writing one in 2011 I’m continuing a tradition (BTW, these posts are all tagged Thailand).
A word of warning, I support the so-called Red Shirts, so if this confession absolutely disgusts you, it might be best not to read the rest of the post😀
Let me run through the results of the last five general elections in Thailand:
2001 – The Thai Rak Thai party (TRT) wins its first general election and forms a government with Mr. Thaksin Shinawatra as prime minister. Thaksin serves out his term, the first time this has happened in Thai history!! (because coups and crises are so frequent)
2005 – The TRT wins again, with 127 seats more than the first time around. Despite the overwhelming electoral support, Thaksin is forced by his critics to dissolve the House and call for new elections.
2006 – The opposition realizes that they cannot win, so they decide to boycott the election. The TRT wins 460 seats out of 500. However, many local elections become invalid because not enough people go to the polls (this happened in several places in the South, where the opposition Democrats were popular). The courts rule the whole election invalid. The military steps in and stages a coup while Thaksin is in New York. Then the TRT is dissolved by the courts and a successor, the People Power Party (PPP), is founded.
2007 – Despite a new military-imposed constitution and a heavy official campaign against the PPP, the new party wins the most seats in the next election and is able to form a coalition. The new prime minister, Samak Sundaravej, is thrown out by the courts for hosting a cooking show. His successor, Mr. Somchai Wongsawat, is thrown out when the PPP is dissolved by the courts. PPP members found a new party, Phuea Thai (PT).
However, at this point, something amazing happens. A PPP faction breaks off, and together with the PPP’s former coalition partners, it joins the Democrat Party to form a new government. The PPP faction and the two main coalition partners are on record as saying they were persuaded/encouraged/forced to act this way by the military and “people who cannot be refused”.
2011 – So guess what happens now! Despite the fact that the parliamentary system has been crassly modified to benefit the Democrats, despite the fact that military leaders and all sorts of people asked the people to vote for the Democrats, the PT wins the election. Not only that, but they gain a simple majority all by themselves, which is a remarkable feat when you consider that 10 other parties also won seats in the 500 member House. The PT is wise enough to cobble a coalition and raise their numbers from 265 to 299 for some insurance. Thaksin’s sister, Ms. Yingluck Shinawatra, will be the new prime minister.
To sum up, the political entity that has been TRT – PPP – PT has won 5 elections in a row. Even though the parliamentary system allows up to 5 years per election, the party has only governed maybe 7 years (of a potential 25).
In my summary above I didn’t mention the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD, anti-Thaksin yellow shirts) and the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD, pro-Thaksin red shirt)), both of which have been very important popular movements outside of the parliamentary system. The PAD asked its supporters to vote No in this last election, and they didn’t even come close to reaching their target of 10%. As for the Red Shirts, they’re in a weird spot right now. The UDD has been instrumental in maintaining support for the PT after the military coup. 5 UDD leaders have been elected to parliament on the PT ticket. However, now critics outside the party and within it are warning that giving positions of power to the UDD would provoke anti-Thaksin forces and prove detrimental to national reconciliation.
In my opinion, some important positions (including a cabinet post) should be given to the UDD leadership. There are two reasons for this: first off, no one in their right minds can deny that the PT and the UDD are working together, and that the UDD has helped the PT tremendously. Anti-Thaksin forces are being facetious when they on the one hand claim that the PT and the UDD are the same thing, but then warn that the PT should dissociate itself from the UDD when it comes to setting up the government.
Secondly, and far more importantly, I believe that the UDD has some great leaders that could do a lot of good for the country. To penalize them for being part of the UDD is moronic, especially when we know that chances are good some cabinet posts will fall to local godfathers with little to no skills instead. Quite frankly, any PT government that fails to employ the likes of Nattawut Saikua and Jatuporn Prompan to the fullest is starting off on the wrong foot. And next year if I’m not mistaken, several former TRT politicians who were banned from politics for 5 years in will be able to participate again. These include Chaturon Chaisaeng and the UDD’s Veera Musikapong, two more leaders who should bring lots to the table.
I realize that the demands for realpolitik must be met, but well, this is my opinion🙂
[CHECK the Wikipedia page for a better explanation of the map.]