Still puzzling over how to prevent Thaksin’s return via elections

By PHILIP GOLINGAI

BANGKOK: Pop quiz on Thai politics: What is a potent method to depose an entrenched politician?  

A: Through the barrel of the gun.  

B: Through the ballot boxes.  

The answer is “A” as witnessed on Sept 19, 2006 when the military overthrew Thaksin Shinawatra, who was the leader of Thai Rak Thai (TRT), the only party to capture the biggest-ever mandate in a Thai election. 

Going by survey results on the outcome of the Dec 23 elections, overthrowing the former prime minister was the easy part. The difficult part is preventing Thaksin from returning to power through the ballot boxes.  

Opinion polls reveal that People Power Party (PPP), which promised to bring back Thaksin from self-exile, will grab more seats that any other party.  

The popularity of PPP, which is a re-incarnation of the disbanded TRT, is proof the coup leaders’ justifications for the coup were off the mark.  

“They said Thaksin had to be destroyed because he was bad for democracy as he controlled the Election Commission (EC) and the media, bought votes and created a patron/client system,” explained Giles Ji Ungpakorn, the author of A Coup For The Rich: Thailand’s Political Crisis.  

Ironically, despite factors such as the military junta’s control of the EC and the dissolution of TRT, it looks like the PPP will still win a large number of votes. 

“The fact is the military has not gotten rid of Thaksin’s influence as he is very popular because of his policies towards the poor. It was the first time that the poor were taken seriously by political parties,” he explained. 

The simplistic view of Thai politics, according to Ungpakorn, is 15 months after the coup, there is an election to pave the way back to democracy.  

“The election is part of the coup process. It is an attempt to manipulate democracy,” he argued. “And the military has to be subtle on how to manipulate it as they can’t stuff the ballot boxes.” 

The military has manipulated democracy by dissolving the TRT, pressuring the EC to disqualify PPP candidates, controlling the media and using threats.  

The likely aftermath of the Dec 23 polls, he said, is the return of a weak coalition government where non-elected institutions like the military will have a greater balance of power.  

On whether the military would launch a second coup if PPP formed the next government, Ungpakorn asked, “what excuse will they give this time?” 

“We staged a coup and we were inept about it so we have to stage another one? That will not be popular.  

“What the military is going to do is ensure PPP will not win an overall majority and lean on other parties not to form a coalition government with it.”  

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  1. […] Giles Ungpakorn of Chulalongkorn University provides some of the most brilliant quotes on Thai politics – a list of previous posts on Giles is here. He is at it again in this article by Philip Golingai in The Star:“The election is part of the coup process. It is an attempt to manipulate democracy,” he[Giles] argued. “And the military has to be subtle on how to manipulate it as they can’t stuff the ballot boxes.”The military has manipulated democracy by dissolving the TRT, pressuring the EC to disqualify PPP candidates, controlling the media and using threats.The likely aftermath of the Dec 23 polls, he said, is the return of a weak coalition government where non-elected institutions like the military will have a greater balance of power.On whether the military would launch a second coup if PPP formed the next government, Ungpakorn asked, “what excuse will they give this time?”“We staged a coup and we were inept about it so we have to stage another one? That will not be popular.“What the military is going to do is ensure PPP will not win an overall majority and lean on other parties not to form a coalition government with it.” COMMENT: Classic Giles. This is the military's problem and they their only hope is to suppress the PPP vote.h/t: HiComrade […]

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