Abhisit’s curious populism

21 12 2009

PPT saw this in a Bangkok Post (21 December 2009) interview with Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva:

Why do populist campaigns not work for you?

What we are doing is not a populist campaign which is short-lived. We are promoting the rights and welfare that people deserve. Children receive free education, the elderly receive allowances and people who are not civil servants will receive savings. No one could do this in their decade-long vote campaign but we can make it in 11 months after taking office.

We have made a clear difference in the past year. Our policy to insure farmers’ incomes draws the agricultural sector out of the long-standing, loss-ridden and corruption-plagued crop-pledging system.

This is a big development with nationwide coverage. Can any party do this in less than a year? Someone proposed we test the new system in one area but we introduced it for 4 million farmers’ families nationwide in four months.

I can say that we have made substantial differences in many aspects in the past year.

What is your expectation from the income insurance scheme for farmers?

I can say that a number of rural people who have not supported our party and not seen its administrative role for a long time now consider us as a choice. I dare not say if they will vote for us but they no longer wonder if we care about them or not.

So populism is only short-lived. Perhaps only when others do it (and get thrown out by a military coup)? Apparently not, for as Bangkok Pundit pointed out some time ago, commenting on another interview with Abhisit, a policy is populist when it is another party’s policy (e.g. universal health care) rather than his own party’s policy (free education).

Quite a few assessments/report cards are emerging on 1 year of Abhisit as premier. See Bangkok Pundit’s assessment here. One thing that needs to be noted in all of these assessments is the failure to assess Abhisit’s lack of integrity (e.g. his penchant for false statements). When he was touted as a potential premier, journalists pointed to his alleged integrity as a plus. Now he seems to fit the mold of a politician in Thailand quite neatly.



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