FT: Democrats more at fault, but Yingluck needs to go
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FT: Democrats more at fault, but Yingluck needs to go

FT in an editorial:

The opposition, whatever its gripes against the government, is more at fault. It has used any tactic at its disposal – legal and illegal – to depose a legitimately elected government. The proposal of an unelected council reveals the patrician nature of much opposition thinking, which stems from the idea that the unwashed majority cannot be trusted to choose a government.

That said, an administration led by Ms Yingluck, understandably suspected of being a mere puppet of her brother, looks increasingly untenable. She has compromised her authority through a disastrous rice-subsidy scheme that has been rightly condemned as wasteful and inefficient. Worse, the amnesty that she proposed – while it would also have covered members of the opposition – looked like a naked attempt to clear her brother, who was convicted in absentia of corruption. (His lawyers maintain the verdict was politically motivated.)

One possible way out of the impasse would be for Ms Yingluck to stand down. As an elected leader, she may consider that unfair. But from the point of view of Thai democracy, it would signal that there is more to the non-establishment forces than the cult of Thaksin. To that extent, politics purged of Mr Thaksin’s influence could be a way forward for a country that has been unable to exorcise the ghosts of the 2006 coup.

The opposition, however, would need to give up much in return. It would need to throw its weight behind the democratic process by promising not to disrupt the poll and to abide by its result. More fundamentally, it would need to back a political settlement – preferably enshrined in a new constitution – that once and for all clearly circumscribed the role of the judiciary, the military and the monarchy. Without such a comprehensive agreement that recognises the electoral legitimacy of Thailand’s majority, Teflon Thailand will eventually come unstuck.

BP: There is a legal problem in Yingluck in resigning, but there is one way she could “stand down”. This way is to take a leave of absence and allow an Acting PM until the July election. As blogged in March:

PM must be an MP under the Constitution (Section 171) so Scenarios 3 and 4 face this obstacle, but taking leave happened in 2006 under Thaksin so is theoretically possible again with one of the Deputy PM’s being made Acting PM. Most likely Deputy PM is Yukol Limlamthong who is from Chart Thai Pattana (Banharn’s party). Yukol was a career civil servant from Ministry of Agriculture rising to be the Permanent Secretary (most senior civil servant in the Ministry) before retiring and becoming the Minister and also Deputy PM so while he is not known really known, he also doesn’t have too much political baggage. More importantly, the Acting PM is not only not a Shinwatra, it is not someone from Puea Thai.This would in theory be a legal way to do this and also provides insurance to Thaksin as Yingluck is still PM and could come back at anytime if things changed, i.e negotiations over future reform plans take too long and  etc. The alternative is that Yingluck appoints someone else as Deputy PM and they then become acting PM. Thai Rath in their analysis on February 18 quoted someone close to red leaders as saying this  process would be acceptable (although the person close to the reds cited by Thai Rath gave the option of an outsider becoming Deputy PM and then Acting PM).

BP: Then Yingluck can state (or simply offer?) that she will not contest the next election and neither will her sisters and brother-in-law (i.e the entire Shinawatra clan) which is something that has been under consideration.

BP then suggests the government offer the 2012 reform process with some minor variations which the Court “stopped” in 2012 per Bloomberg‘s description:

The Pheu Thai party presented a proposal to parliament to create a Constitution Drafting Assembly, House Speaker Somsak Kiatsuranont told reporters in Bangkok today. The measure will be put on the agenda for lawmakers to discuss within 15 days, Somsak said.

The committee would comprise 99 people and have 180 days to draw up a new constitution, Pheu Thai Spokesman Prompong Nopparit said by phone yesterday. Moving to rewrite the constitution is Yingluck’s biggest challenge to a military establishment that six years ago overthrew former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra since she took power in August.

A nationwide referendum will be held after the rewrite is completed, Prompong said

BP: In 2012, the Court advised against the government proceeding with the 2012 constitution amendment stating there also needed to be a referendum before the setup of a Constitution Drafting Assembly to see whether people wanted a complete rewrite. The government decided not to push the issue, but given Abhisit’s plan didn’t first include a referendum asking whether people wanted a complete rewrite this doesn’t seem to be a sticking point for the Democrats.  The 99 members included 22 legal/political science experts appointed by parliament and 77 elected representatives with one from each province. The government should make clear the opposition could select 11 and the government 11 experts. If there are objections to parliament appointing anyone, another alternative is just to have 77 elected representatives and parliament appoint 22 non-voting legal/political science experts as advisors. One assumes after Abhisit’s proposal on Saturday that the Democrats are no longer opposed to a reform committee rewriting the entire constitution as argued by Korn in 2012:

The opposition Democrat party argues that forming the 99- member drafting assembly violates the constitution, and amendments must be done section-by-section within Parliament, according to Korn Chatikavanij, a deputy leader and former finance minister.

“It’s nothing to do with the monarchy or the monarchy as an issue,” he said in an interview last month. “It’s the concept of providing a blank check to write a whole new constitution without giving parliament any recourse.”

BP: We could even have parliament vote to endorse the Constitution Drafting Assembly’s proposed rewrite.