Thai Rath‘s political analysis* on December 30 named Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra as Thailand’s “Political person of the year”. Below is a summarised translation:
Doesn’t mean the best or person with best behaviour but the person with most important role and ability to change [BP: Like Time‘s man of the year].
There was no need for long discussion amongst the editorial staff as the choice of Yingluck was unanimous. It is her second successive title.
This year we chose her because of her role as a leader. She faced challenges with possibility of violence but she was able to use her role as a female to pass these challenges. She is soft in her approach to matters and is humble. Her personality is impressive and she looks good as well.
However, she still makes mistakes in speeches, the same as before, saying the wrong words which is her weakness. For her supporters they see it as a small thing and not a big deal. For her critics, they see it as a big deal, even though there are only a few mistakes, as she is the leader of the country and reduces her credibility.
Importantly, it must be said that some mistakes could cause misunderstanding and confusion among govt officials.
[Thai Rath used the example of the Obama visit with supporters saying she looked impressive but critics saying her behaviour was inappopriate].
Just by her personality and actions she can create news for people to talk about the whole year.
When Yingluck was the newcomer as PM it was clear by all the visits overseas to see the “big boss” [Thaksin] who was in control, but in the past year the situation has changed with Yingluck gaining more control especially over the cabinet reshuffle. Thaksin wanted the reshuffle to happen in the middle of the year to bring some of the 111 [political executives of Thai Rak Thai whose political ban expired in the middle of 2012] and to reward red shirts but it didn’t go to plan as Yingluck delayed the reshuffle.
It was like a declaration that the power of the reshuffle is now in Thailand. Also, the personnel for the Cabinet reshuffle Yingluck didn’t follow Thaksin completely. Only 2-3 from the 111 became Ministers and the reds didn’t get what they wanted and Ministers close to Yingluck that Thaksin wanted out stayed.
Yingluck’s increased role can also been seen through the appointment of senior civil servants who Yingluck spoke to personally to see whether they would carry out government policies regardless of who they were/their connections.
It is clear now that Yingluck has more clout. She has power, although her older brother still is in control but just not complete control as before.
In addition, Yingluck has also brought in politicians from various factions to be close to her – known as the Thai Ku Fah faction – which has become a new faction in Puea Thai.
Yingluck’s most prominent role has been on foreign affairs whether in ASEAN, APEC, or the UN. Even though at times her visits has been proceded by Thaksin, she has been accepted as she is a democratically elected leader who is a female (Forbes listed her in top 30 influential female world leaders in 2012).
Yingluck has payed little attention to parliament over the last year. She rarely goes stating she has non-parliamentary activities to attend to. Even for the no-confidence debate she should explain but mostly leaves the task up to Ministers. She can rely on parliamentary numbers for support. In a parliamentary democracy, the PM as head of the government is directly responsible to parliament, but Yingluck always evades attending. This has lead to the accusation that she is not giving parliament the importance that it deserves.
Yingluck’s most important role has been managing the political situation where conflict has built up over time. A confrontation could happen at any time. This includes the multi-coloureds who were protesting against amending Section 291 of the constitution and PAD who were protesting the reconciliation bill.
The PM decided to delay proceeding of both to keep the government on track. This stopped any confrontation. Government was able to use its resources to make the “frozen mob” [Pitak Siam] whither away.
At the end of the year, Puea Thai were going to go ahead of the 3rd reading of the amendment to Section 291 but the PM stated a referendum needed to be held first.
The PM was able to control the mob outside the parliament and stopped confrontation and loss of any lives.
BP: BP generally agrees, particularly with the choice of political person of the year as it seems obvious, but some comments:
1. The highlighted passage – as also illustrated in a previous post on the Thai Rath political analysis piece in late October – is probably the key passage. Yingluck has more clout than she did have before and she increasingly exercised it as the year went on, but Thaksin still oversees everything. Thitinan probably best summed it up with a quote he gave to the FT where he said: “She listens to Thaksin but he controls [the ruling] Pheu Thai party more than she does. It’s like he is chairman of the board and she is CEO.”
2. Yingluck’s flaws, as outlined in the analysis, have not proved fatal so far, but the longer the government is in office, the greater the likelihood for corruption scandals to arise. At some point, Yingluck will have to address any such scandal in parliament. Unless, she improves her performance in parliament, she will struggle to answer any questions effectively.
*Actually, translated it from the print version and a quick glance shows it appears to be the same as the online version..