The Democrats are facing party dissolution in regards to two charges. First, for misusing 29 million baht ($907,000) allotted to the Democrats from a government fund. Second, regarding failing to report a donation of 258 million baht ($8.4 million) from petrochemical conglomerate TPI (see posts on this here, here, and here). In some ways, it is not the party dissolution that is key, it is whether what party executives will be banned? Will it just be the party leader or will all party executives be banned?
For now, on the first charge, the matter is now before the court, but Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva stated two months ago that a decision may be forthcoming as early as October for the first charge and then up to five months later for the second charge. The Nation:
Abhisit and other senior Democrats appeared less anxious about the 29-million-baht case than was reported earlier. The party hopes to overturn charges of irregularities in the use of the subsidy to produce election-campaign materials by depicting it as just a case of an incomplete accounting report.
/>Even if the court rules that the party is guilty and thus has to be dissolved, senior Democrats believe there remains a chance for party executives to escape five-year bans from politics.
/>Abhisit admitted he could not escape responsibility because he was the one who signed the relevant financial reports, though the campaign materials were ordered and produced before he became party leader.
/>Abhisit said he expected the verdict in the second case – a Bt258-million “illegal” donation from TPI Polene Plc – to come “four or five months” after the ruling on the first case. However, a Constitution Court judge, Wasant Soipisut, did not dismiss the possibility of the court combining the two cases.
/>”It will be up to the Constitution Court to decide,” Wasant said yesterday.
/>Democrat Party insiders have admitted that the second case is worrisome, because the money trails are evident. The Democrats, it is believed, will fight this case by distancing the party from the money and insisting that it was only an issue involving individuals.
BP: The biggest problem for Abhisit is the first case. He is the executive directly implicated. Even if the Court decides to dissolve the Democrats, but not ban all party executives (and thus reverse the 2007 Constitutional Court decision in regards to Thai Rak Thai), then Abhisit could still be banned. Dissolving the Democrats and banning only Abhisit is a half-stick measure. This is the beauty if the decisions are handed down separately 4-5 months apart. Why you ask? And why would the Democrats be dissolved?
Well, BP sees the most likely time for an election is May 2011 at the height of the economic recovery and when the effect of the stimulus package is being felt the most. This would seem the most advantageous time for the Democrats to go to the polls (one could also say late March if 4th quarter GDP figures are very good).* Then again, you have the dissolution cases to think about too. You don’t want to dissolve parliament with no decision in the case.
But there is another way the dissolution of the Democrats may affect the timing of the next election. Actually, new elections are not a certainity. Legally, they are required by the beginning of 2012, but well the fear of Puea Thai winning may be enough to stop elections from happening. Why you ask? Well, a certain event and Puea Thai being in government at that time. So if you are really fearful of Puea Thai winning, how to definitely stop Abhisit from dissolving parliament? Well, dissolve the Democrats and ban Abhisit and/or the other party executives before he can do so. Abhisit is an electoral asset for the Democrats and constantly has higher ratings than either his party or the coalition partners, but if there is going to be no election then being an electoral asset doesn’t matter. Removing Abhisit and replacing him with Korn or someone else removes the electoral asset of Abhisit so the Democrats would then be less inclinced to go for an early election. Then, you have the second dissolution charge as a stick in the background in case anyone in the Democrats wishes to tempt fate.
*note there is some level of inside knowledge from within the Democrats to support this thesis. The Democrats need two things to go their way, the economy doing well and NPP do not contest the election – it is not that the NPP would take away that many seats from the Democrats, but that they would split the anti-Thaksin vote in some key urban provincial seats so as to cost the Democrats 10-15 seats. Now, based on expectations of the vote at the next election (see here, here and here), this would be enough to cost the Democrats the chance of forming the next government.
In case you are wondering why the release of the GDP figures matter as opposed to just simply the economy being good. Simply, it is people seeing more money in their pocket and the papers will be talking about it even more when the GDP figures are released.