Yingluck dissolves parliament, but will the opposition contest the election?By Bangkok Pundit Dec 09, 2013 3:57PM UTC
Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra says she will dissolve parliament and call an election, after sustained protests in the capital, Bangkok.
“At this stage, when there are many people opposed to the government from many groups, the best way is to give back the power to the Thai people and hold an election,” she said. “So the Thai people will decide.“
Thailand’s prime minister announced Monday she will dissolve the lower house of Parliament and call early elections in an attempt to calm the country’s deepening political crisis. The surprise move came as an estimated 100,000 protesters vowing to overthrow her government marched through the streets of Bangkok for a “final showdown.”
“After listening to opinions from all sides, I have decided to request a royal decree to dissolve Parliament,” Yingluck said, breaking into regular programming. “There will be new elections according to the democratic system.”
She said the Election Commission would set a date “as soon as possible” and that she would remain in a caretaker capacity until the election of a new prime minister. As a formality, the king must approve the dissolution, after which elections must be held within 60 days.
“We will keep on protesting because we want her family to leave this country,” said Boonlue Mansiri, one of tens of thousands who joined a 20-kilometer (12-mile) march to Yingluck’s office.
The sentiment was the same across town, where protesters filled a major four-lane road in the city’s central business district, waving flags, blowing whistles and holding a huge banner that said, “Get Out, Shinawatra.”
Asked about the dissolution of Parliament, one middle-aged woman in the crowd said, “It is too late,” and
“It’s not enough.”
“At the end of the day, we are going to win,” said the woman, who identified herself as Paew. “What happens now? Don’t worry. We will figure it out.”
Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban said he would announce his reaction once his march reached Government House. Suthep has repeatedly said that calling fresh elections would not be enough to end the conflict. He has demanded that a non-elected “people’s council” lead the country instead, an idea that has been criticized as utopian and undemocratic.
“We will rise up. We will walk on every street in the country. We will not be going home again,” Suthep said Sunday. His supporters on Monday appeared to abandon the two places they had occupied for more than a week — the Finance Ministry and part of a vast government complex. “The people who will be going home empty-handed are those in the Thaksin regime.“
BP: That article was published a few hours ago and the 100,000 figure is from this morning. Waan of WSJ has the latest CAPO estimates:
CAPO / police said about 155,000 people joined the #bangkokprotest as of the latest estimate.
— Waan Chomchuen (@waanspeaking) December 9, 2013
Also, the election is scheduled to be held on February 2 now as per AP. (CORRECTED the date now – also AP now have a story to say February 2 is only proposed date by the Cabinet although one EC member has also suggested that date so it seems the most likely date).
BP: It is a big, big crowd. These are CAPO numbers too and BP’s rule of thumb from their previous estimates of a much smaller, easier to estimate defined area was that they underestimate by 50%. Hence, applying that we are looking at 225,000 and that may not even be the peak. It will be easier to tell when they converge at Government House as now they are spread into multiple crowds.
Calling an election will not end the political deadlock if the Democrats boycott it, said Pavin Chachavalpongpun of Kyoto University’s Centre for Southeast Asian Studies.
In 2006, amid mass protests, the Democrats refused to contest a snap election called by Thaksin, who was deposed by the military five months later.
“This is only a short-term solution because there is no guarantee that the Democrats will come back and play by the rules,” says Pavin. “We don’t know whether they will boycott the elections or not.”
Thavorn Senneam, a former lawmaker who is one of the key leaders of the antigovernment protest movement, described Ms. Yingluck’s election call as “a political tactic.” Mr. Thavorn said his group, called the People’s Democratic Reform Committee, will continue to press its demand for an appointed “people’s assembly” to succeed Ms. Yingluck’s elected government, and will lobby against serving as caretaker prime minister until the next government is formed.
In brief remarks at a protest march in Bangkok’s financial district, Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva said the party has yet to decide whether to contest the election. “We are walking today; we will talk about that later,” he said.
Joshua Kurlantzick, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Council on Foreign Relations ,was among those who predicted that many Democrat Party politicians won’t endorse the election. The party hasn’t won a national poll since 1992. “They want a return to an unelected or technocratic government somehow,” he said.
Although, the New York Times can beat Thavorn’s quote:
Sathit Wongnongtoey, one of the protest leaders and a former member of Parliament for the Democrat Party, said on Monday that he feared there would be “cheating” in the election if the government carried on as caretakers, as the Constitution stipulates.
“And they will return to power,” Mr. Sathit said. “We cannot allow that to happen.”
BP: Regarding that Satit quote… Just Wow….
Suthep, secretary-general of the People’s Committee for Democratic Reform (PCDR), said after hearing the announcement of the dissolution of the House of Representatives by Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra on a live TV Pool broadcast, that the dissolution of the House and the general election would only bring back the old regime to rule the country again.
He said this was not a solution to the country’s deep-rooted problems of election frauds and corruption.
He said the PCDR wanted the prime minister to return the power to the mass represented by the PCDR , paving the way to the formation of a people’s council to appoint an interim government from outsiders to rule the country and supervise clean election.
Suthep said this would ensure that the Thaksin regime would never return to power in this country.
Abhisit’s position is a little unclear. As blogged yesterday:
The Democrat Party decided in a party meeting today that all MPs should resign. Yingluck has again offered the dissolution option today (which the protesters rejected) and a referendum option as well (which they also rejected), but the problem is now that while Abhisit welcomes a dissolution, he has not specifically said that the Democrats will participate (remembering the Democrats boycotted in 2006)
Bangkok Post today:
The House dissolution is a way of showing responsibility. The government has shown that it does not have the intention of clinging to power.
“I think the prime minister’s resignation or dissolution of the House will lead to more people coming out to help explore ways out for the country. Proposals by various groups of academics could eventually go in the same direction – that is, to return the power to the people and to see the country’s reform.
“The first step toward this goal is the return of power to the people, in one form or another,” Mr Abhisit said.
An AP reporter asked Abhisit earlier:
Will you contest the election? Abhisit: Ÿou’ll have to ask the party.”
— Jerry Harmer (@Coalporter) December 9, 2013
So you might boycott? Abhisit: Ï didn’t say that”.
— Jerry Harmer (@Coalporter) December 9, 2013
BP: It became clear to BP last night that after the Thai Government Spokesperson said that the PM had, in the words of the Bangkok Post, “sought royal permission from His Majesty the King for the return of the controversial charter amendment bill on the make-up of the Senate”, that the dissolution option would be exercised.
We are still waiting to see whether the Democrats will play ball. Will today’s rally simply be to up the ante with the party continuing to join the street protests to pressure Yingluck to resign (and then with a political vacuum push for an Appointed Government) OR will they contest the election? If the latter, what will Suthep and the other protest leaders do? The Democrats could go out on a “high” with large turn-out today, but they are also strengthening Puea Thai with any those reds upset over the Amnesty Bill likely to forgive the government because they see “Puea Thai” as the lesser of two evils now. In connection with this, if we assume the Democrats do participate, what will their position be about the ”People’s Assembly”? Even if they do not endorse it, BP expects you will have reds and members of Puea Thai say that this is the Democrat plan and that Democrats don’t want an elected government. Expect it be an issue in the election campaign which is likely to be quite “feisty” with both sides attacking each other relentlessly…