January 10, 2008 18:40 PM
By D. Arul Rajoo
BANGKOK, Jan 10 (Bernama) — Uncertainties in Thai politics will persist, with the possibility of more conflicts surfacing, if the establishment blocks the political party linked to ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra from forming the government or try to dissolve it in an undemocratic way, the country’s political analysts said today.
Speakers at the “Thailand Under Populism: Analysing the Election Result” forum said it was time for the “old elite” to accept the fact that the Thai society was changing and a wider part of the population have realised their rights and were eager to taste the fruit of development previously enjoyed by those in the capital.
Thitinan Pongsudhirak, Director of Institute of Security and International Studies, said compromise and reconciliation were the way forward but unfortunately, they was no such sign at the moment.
“The question is who will make the first step. I think the onus is on the establishment or they will lose all. They have to accept the fact they can’t have old type of
Thitinan said whether the establishment likes it or not, the country still needs people like Thaksin as he had broken the old system by bypassing the bureaucracy and establishment and going straight to the people with his populist policies.
He said despite ousting Thaksin on Sept 19, 2006, his supporters in the People’s Power Party (PPP) managed to win the Dec 23 general election because the military and the “old elite” group have failed to control the system as they tried to abolish everything associated with him, including his populist schemes that made the rural population love him dearly.
“Rural people watch television a lot… they see big cars and houses in soap opera and they want to taste it. Thaksin came along and saw the gap, he knew how to use the situation and he won,” said Thitinan.
PPP won 233 seats in the election but failed to get the required 241 seats to form the government. But despite getting support from smaller parties, it was facing difficulty as the Election Commission (EC) has already disqualified three of its candidates for vote-buying and more are being investigated.
During the forum attended by diplomatic corps and media, several ambassadors voiced their concern with the way the EC was conducting its investigations and were puzzled why PPP was not allowed to form the government.
Prof Suchit Bunbongkarn, Senior Fellow at Institute of Strategic and international Studies (ISIS) and a member of National Legislative Council, said things would be become clearer by next week when the parliament is convened and political parties complete their negotiations and bargaining on forming the government.
He said conflicts and instability are normal as they have been part and parcel of Thai politics in the past 60 years, adding that the selection of the prime minister depended not solely on parliament but also outside influence as in the past.
But Suchit said the stability of a coalition government remains a key issue as protests are bound to occur, with urban population taking to the streets if PPP does something wrong as happened during Thaksin’s reign while rural population could be mobilised to demonstrate in the capital if the Democrat, the party with the second highest seats, formed the government.
“If the government can survive for one year, that will be very good,” he said.
Prof Dr Charas Suwanmala, Chulalongkorn University’s Dean of Political Science Faculty, said the first three months of the year would be an interesting period as the fate of the country’s political direction would be determined.
With several cases looming, there was a possibility of PPP being dissolved in February or March, he said.
Dr Charas cited investigations on Thaksin’s VCD distributed during the election campaign despite him being banned for five years from politics, allegations of PPP being a nominee of the dissolved Thai Rak Thai party and the case of PPP deputy leader Yongyuth Tiyapairat who is being investigated by the EC for electoral fraud.
“The Constitution clearly states if an executive board member knew something wrong is being done and he didn’t do anything to stop it, the party can be dissolved by the court. This is a very challenging thing,” he added.
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