Thitinan: An election is the only way outBy Bangkok Pundit May 08, 2014 8:00PM UTC
Thitinan in an op-ed in the Bangkok Post:
Much of the huff and puff in Thailand is tragically unnecessary. Those who are arrayed against the kind of corruption and abuse of power, as personified by Thaksin and his ilk, should know and must try to win at the polls.
They have been led by a lousy and lazy opposition party, which has boycotted two of the last four elections and lost the other two, the last after being in power for two-and-a-half years. It is high time to change the leadership of the Democrat Party. The opposition party has essentially forfeited the electoral arena to Thaksin’s Pheu Thai Party. It is time to re-enter and regain the electoral momentum by fighting for the hearts and minds of the electorate the hard way. That the Democrat Party has boycotted and undercut the electoral process will now make it harder for it to win and therefore more tempting for it to look for shortcuts to power. These short-cut manoeuvres must stop. The Thaksin party machine can be beaten at the polls in which the constitutional rules have already been written in 2007 against him.
At the end of the day, the Thai electorate will have to play judge and jury. If others do so in disregard of the voices of the people, we can count on more political hardships and hard times ahead in Thailand.
BP: Some advice for the Democrats. You need to let the situation play out. If you are going to argue that government policies have failed, you need to point out those failings, give time for people to see, and then point this out to the electorate in an election. In many countries, people get sick of a government after a few terms, but the opposition must offer something new (then they later get sick of the opposition and the cycle repeats itself). The problem in Thailand is whenever a pro-Thaksin government is seen as weak, the Establishment try to remove it. By remove, we are not talking about an election but a coup whether military or judicial.
Thitinan appears to have slightly altered his views on the chances of the Democrats where back in February in the FT he stated:
Overall, the appeal of Mr Thaksin’s party has been eroded significantly – yet it is a pity that the opposition party chose not to run. In a free and fair contest, the margins last Sunday would have been close, and other parties would have had a chance to form a government that excluded Mr Thaksin’s party. The protesters succeeded in exposing the graft and mismanagement of the government. Mr Thaksin’s amnesty gambit was roundly deplored by all sides. Policy missteps such as an ill-conceived and lossmaking rice subsidy scheme, which has yet to compensate myriad farmers for their crops, undermined government performance, too.
BP: BP thinks the Senate election whereby the government did reasonably well and government supported candidates won 40 seats, 16 to opposition and another 21 to independent candidates. Government here includes the coalition partners, but still Puea Thai is a political force. BP thinks the Democrats would have improved over 2011 (where the gap was 100 seats between Puea Thai and the Democrats and reduced to around 60), but they wouldn’t have come close enough. You have to remember that Bhum Jai Thai (the biggest third party) is suffering problems and they had defectors to Puea Thai. BP’s analysis of the February 2014 election results that were released shows that Puea Thai picked up seats from Bhum Jai Thai without losing any seats to them. The third parties doing well and picking up seats off Puea Thai is cruicial for the Democrats to form a government. In BP’s view, the third parties are not yet able to and the Democrats can’t pick up enough seats from Puea Thai in other constituencies. The Democrats would be 20 seats short (if they performed their best and reduced the gap to 60 seats). What the Democrats have to learn is it is likely going to take 2 election cycles to get into government. Make gains this time and hope to win government the next time round. Trying to take short-cuts won’t help them do that and if anything, all these short-cuts have only helped Thaksin over the past 7-8 years.
Below are some quotes from Thitinan in relation to the Constitution Court decision (which had written before seeing the op-ed and included here as no need for 2 Thitinan posts in one day)
“The question is whether the protesters will be satisfied with Yingluck’s ouster and return to the electoral system,” said Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a political scientist at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok. “Or, will they continue to protest Yingluck’s successor? If they continue to do that and reject elections, then we are back in the same place, and maybe worse.”
“[The decision] shows you how politicized and compromised the Thai judicial system has become over the last decade,” Thitinan Pongsudhirak, professor of political science at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University, tells TIME. “In most other countries the sitting government has authority to make transfers of officials.”
Fresh elections have been called for July 20, but once again the Democrat Party is threatening a boycott. “We’ve seen a concerted effort by the street protesters, the PDRC, the Democrat Party and independent agencies working in the same direction in different ways to oust Yingluck,” says Thitinan.
“The conflict in Thailand is likely to persist,” Thai political scientist and associate professor at Chulalongkorn University Thitinan Pongsudhirak told The Christian Science Monitor’s Bangkok correspondent Flora Bagenal. “Basically, it has become irreconcilable because both sides think that they can win.”
Chulalongkorn University political science professor Thitinan Pongsudhirak agrees that leaving in place 25 members of the Cabinet provides some short-term stability.
“I am cautiously optimistic while I’ve been pessimistic all along. This time the Constitutional Court did not go all the way. They went almost all the way. They got rid of Yingluck, got rid of the Cabinet [members] from three years ago but they left some Cabinet members behind to succeed Yingluck and to run a caretaker administration. This means we have a chance to get to the election day,” he said.
BP: Well the Court decision wasn’t the worst outcome possible. There are many pitfalls on the horizon, but the government remains and PDRC have not their way. The odds of an election taking place in July have increased, but the PDRC are trying to do everything to prevent this…..We will see what the Establishment has planned for tomorrow.