McCargo: The establishment cannot turn back the tide of Thai politics
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McCargo: The establishment cannot turn back the tide of Thai politics

Just after the Court decision, well-known British academic and commentator on Thai politics Duncan McCargo had a short piece in Foreign Affairs:

….Yingluck’s real offence, though, was being a member of the Shinawatra political clan, the target of mass protests that have disrupted life in the Thai capital for the better part of six months. That Yingluck survived in office so long is testimony to the extreme hesitancy of Thailand’s monarchical network — an alliance of interests that includes the palace, the military, and the judiciary — to move against her. After all, she still enjoys the support of the majority of voters.

After three years of unrest, however, this month, Yingluck finally lost the backing of that conservative establishment. It will be difficult to create a replacement administration. Thailand has become a country of partisans, devoid of credible neutral figures who can broker a settlement between warring pro- and anti-Thaksin factions and build a sustainable government. The future of the elections, originally scheduled for July 20, now looks in doubt, and Yingluck supporters are threatening to engage in civil disobedience or worse to show their displeasure at the court’s latest challenge to democratic rule.

And that means that today’s celebratory mood in some corners of Thailand, especially within the anti-government “People’s Democratic Reform Committee,” is likely to prove short-lived. Thailand is now entering new and extremely dangerous political territory.

McCargo with an opinion piece in FT entitled “The elite cannot turn back the tide of Thai politics”. Key excerpt below:

But this is the 11th time Mr Suthep has called for a “final battle” to oust the Shinawatra clan. He repeatedly urges “the people” (meaning his own groups of supporters) to seize “sovereign power”, as though hot air alone could topple the government.

The increasingly demagogic anti-Thaksin movement is now guilty of many of the same shortcomings it ascribes to Mr Thaksin: it is highly personalised, stubborn and self-interested. The movement – calling itself the People’s Democratic Reform Committee – disrupted a general election held on February 2, which was boycotted by the opposition and subsequently annulled by the courts.

Mr Suthep and the Democrat party have demanded “reform before elections”, pre-emptive and unconstitutional moves intended to curtail the power of ordinary voters and prevent another pro-Thaksin government from coming to power. Unable to triumph at the ballot box, Thailand’s oldest political party has turned against electoral politics. Whether the elections scheduled for July 20 will go ahead remains in doubt.

For many Bangkokians, the decision of the constitutional court will come as a vindication of their hostility to the Puea Thai government. But there is a vast psychological divide between the metropolitan middle class and the masses registered to vote in the country’s most populous regions.

The conflict is pitting an entrenched elite that is destined to lose power against new political forces whose rise seems inexorable. Ousting Ms Yingluck on a technicality was an act of desperation, not a show of strength.

BP: McCargo appears quite pessimistic. Since the court decision, we are in a kind of stalemate although the PDRC are on the offensive planning to somehow install an unelected government, but this won’t be easy.