Suthep’s People Assembly: ‘New Politics’ in disguise
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Suthep’s People Assembly: ‘New Politics’ in disguise

In 2008 the PAD proposed New Politics, in which up to 70% of MPs would be elected from various professions and 30% elected from constituencies.  Essentially, the 70% (although in later reiterations it went down to as low as 50%), would be like the Hong Kong functional constituencies, with professions and business dominating. Chang Noi noted:

Since the logic of the PAD’s proposal is to disenfranchise the rural poor, this new system is likely to favour the rich, the urban, and the higher educated.

BP: This proposal has been on the backburner as the PAD have had little political influence, but Suthep has essentially rekindled the idea with this People Assembly proposal although this time, BP has seen no mention of the division between those elected from geographical constituencies (ie. what we have for MPs and what other democratic countries have) versus functional constituencies. The implied suggestion is it would be 100% functional constituencies.

Bloomberg:

We will set up a parliament of the people, whose members will come from representatives of all occupations,” Suthep said, adding that neither he or Abhisit would lead the government

AP:

Suthep has rejected new elections, which the now-opposition Democrats are certain to lose. In a speech Tuesday to followers at the Finance Ministry, he called for a change of the country’s parliamentary system.

“If we take down the Thaksin regime tomorrow, we will set up a people’s council the day after tomorrow,” he told the cheering crowd. “Let the people’s council pick a good man to be the prime minister, good men to be ministers. Make it a dream team, make a Cabinet of your dream and the people’s government.

New York Times:

Mr. Suthep has pointedly said fresh elections are not his goal — he and the opposition Democrat Party would very likely lose a general election. Instead he has called for a “people’s council,” a seemingly utopian plan that would effectively suspend the country’s democratic system and select “good people” to lead the country. He has not offered specifics on how the council would be selected, beyond saying it would represent people from “all professions.”

Another protest leader, Thaworn Senniam, said on Thai television on Wednesday that Thais should “not focus too much on elections.”

“I don’t think elections fully represent democracy, and it would be an excuse to have a slave Parliament controlled by one individual,” he said, in an apparent reference to Mr. Thaksin.

BP: How is this different from New Politics? In fact, it is worse. The actual PAD New Politics proposal called for elections within the professions, but selection means appointment rather than elections.

The obvious reason why Suthep is proposing this now as opposed to when the Democrats were in government is simply that that then they have power so no need to change things. However, now the Democrats are in opposition, and the scale of the task ahead of them has brought the reality of their situation to the fore. The last time the Democrats won the highest number of seats in parliament was in 1992. The two times they have been in government since then has been because of outside intervention. If there was a chance that the Democrats would win the next election – and given the  loss of support for Puea Thai because of the politically disastrous Amnesty Bill, the Democrats have been in their best position politically for years – do you think they would not have pushed the PM to dissolve parliament immediately? Of course, they would have. Suthep’s proposal just confirms the obvious. The Democrats know they can’t win an election so they want to fundamentally rewrite the rules and do so by a new bunch of appointed “representatives”…

btw, not everyone is opposed, the Bangkok Post:

Charas Suwanmala, dean of Chulalongkorn University’s Political Science Department, said he believes some parts of the constitution must be put on hold for Mr Suthep’s “people’s parliament” and “dream team” government to become reality.

He agreed with Mr Suthep’s proposals despite the need for the democratic system to take a break.

He said that without a political reform drive which could draw up a new agenda and new political rules, the country will encounter mass protests against governments again and again.

Mr Charas said the people’s parliament and government must have a strict mission to draw up a blueprint for political reform.

The parliament will only be temporary, existing for three months at most, he said. After that, a new election should be called and the new government must implement political reform as envisaged by the representatives of the people.

BP: Coming from a key supporter of the multi-colored group, this is not surprising. The “representatives” of the people is the People’s Council? The actual representatives are MPs……