|Home > South-East Asia >> Thailand|
Junta accused of preventing political parties from preparing for election so as to give 'Army Party' an advantage
Ugly Truth Thailand - November 19, 2017
Despite promising to announce elections in the middle of 2018, the junta have not allowed political parties to organise any activities. These activities would be vital in pulling together and recruiting party members, raising funds and drawing up party rules and policies; all a requirement under the junta's new law regulating political parties.
At the same time the military junta is floating the idea of an "Army Party" as a vehicle to allow Generalissimo Prayut to become Prime Minister again after the elections. The military constitution also allows for a non-MP to be nominated as Prime Minister under certain circumstances. The junta is also justifying why it would be "legitimate" for it to support a particular political party in the future.
Civilian political parties which cannot fulfil the requirements laid down by the election law will be barred from standing in an election. This is a basic "snap election" tactic, aimed at giving advantage to those already in government. However, instead of a real snap election, the long-overdue elections, which have been continuously postponed, could eventually be held as a "fixed" race where the junta's party is starting the race well ahead of civilian parties.
Even if these worst fears do not come to fruition, the elections will still not be free and fair, as there are a number of junta-controlled "super-bodies", associated with the junta's "National Strategy" which will neuter the power and freedom of any elected politicians or governments. Observers have also pointed out that the "Army Party" would have a total monopoly of members in the appointed Senate which can veto anything that an elected government wishes to do.
The junta has planned to make sure that its dark shadow blots out the light of freedom and democracy in Thailand for decades.
However, the idea of an "Army Party" is risky because it could backfire if the population express their opposition to the junta at the ballot box. After the 1992 uprising against a former military junta, the public decisively rejected all political parties which were associated with the 1991 military coup. If this happened next year it would be a slap in the face for the junta.
The present junta has lied about its so-called role in building reconciliation, by claiming that it is a "neutral" party. Most Thais know this to be untrue, but if Prayut uses the future elections to become Prime Minister again, there could be wide-spread public anger.
An election outcome where none of the political parties wins an overall majority is probably one important aim of the junta. The weaker any coalition government might be, the stronger the influence of the military on such a government can be.
In the past, before the rise of Taksin's Thai Rak Thai Party, elected governments were all weak coalitions of political parties without any real policies. Politicians and unelected members of the elite just used the political process to bargain and horse-traded personal benefits aimed at enriching themselves. Meanwhile the majority of the electorate were ignored and the gross inequality in power and economic status between ordinary citizens and those at the top, was allowed to get worse. This is the state of affairs that the reactionaries among those at the top of society, together with their middle-class allies, will be looking to with a big dose of nostalgia.
It will take a powerful mass movement on the ground and progressive left-wing ideas, coming from those organised in a new political party, before the dual legacies of the junta's repression and Taksin's betrayal of the redshirts' dreams of democracy can be erased.