Trying to fix an election, part III

18 02 2011

Simon Roughneen in the Sydney Morning Herald joins those who think that there will be an election “before the end of June.” Both Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and his deputy Suthep Thaugsuban have spoken of such a possibility, with no commitment to a date.

Chris Baker

The article notes that this latest bit of election speculation came after “MPs voted to amend the electoral format, expanding the party list representation in parliament and moving the remaining constituency seats from a multi-seat to a single-seat format.” Roughneen cites well-known pundit Chris Baker who says that “the amended system could boost Mr Abhisit’s Democrats [he means the Democrat Party, for they are not democrats], the lead party in the governing coalition, but which has been comfortably beaten by pro-Thaksin [Shinawatra] parties in recent elections.” Baker adds that the premier’s party ”did much better last time on the party list than the territorial constituencies. Shifting seats from territorial to party list should favour them.”

PPT said similar things more than a month ago. We remain on the fence about an election date although we think the probability of an election increases as the Democrat Party and their backers get all of their pieces in order.

We have previously posted on how jailing opponents, engaging in massive censorship, killing protesters, being backed by the military, judiciary and palace, banning hundreds of politicians who would oppose the royalist regime or pose an electoral threat, and getting an already rigged constitution fixed (again) seems not enough for the Abhisit government that has now thrown billions of baht at voters.

With all of this in mind, readers should also look at the post at Bangkok Pundit regarding what PPT considers amounts to Thai-style gerrymandering.

PPT also wants to emphasize the article that BP cites, from The Nation. The panel selected and appointed by Abhisit and chaired by yellow-shirted academic and virulent Thaksin critic Sombat Thamrongthanyawong is said to be “poised to recommend the formation of a Constitution Drafting Assembly (CDA) tasked with a major overhaul of the electoral system, transforming the way governments are formed.” And just guess which party is going to benefit enormously from the proposals so far leaked. Of course, it is the Democrat Party.

Sombat says that the military junta-backed 2007 constitution simply doesn’t cut the mustard and needs a “major rewrite … to improve on Thailand’s political institutions…”. We’re pretty sure this doesn’t involve the institution.

Getting the junta's constitution in place

It may seem strange that the military junta’s basic law doesn’t work for the Democrat Party as the party of the amart. The military worked exceptionally hard, in alliance with all kinds of yellow-shirted intellectuals and junta flunkies to get the constitution passed by a referendum, so it should be in the interests of the amart. It surely is, but the simple point is that this constitution, while rigged for the anti-Thaksin parties still saw them elected in 2007! Therefore it must be changed to prevent such an “anomaly” again.

Basically, the rules have to be changed to ensure a system that is heavily biased against pro-Thaksin, red shirt or populist parties.

So here are some of the draft recommendations from Abhisit’s panel led by Sombat:

The party with highest proportionate ballots, known as the party-list vote, should have first the chance to form a coalition government. As PPT has pointed out already, this is meant to reflect the fact that the Democrat Party did much better on the party list in 2007 than in the constituency seats. In other words, the proposal does away the notion of the party with the most seats getting first opportunity to form a government. By implication, this approach, in good yellow shirt fashion, effectively devalues votes in rural areas where pro-Thaksin parties have their strongholds, especially in the North, Northeast and Central regions.

The House should not have the mandate to censure the prime minister. PPT reckons this comes direct from Privy Council President and former unelected prime minister General Prem Tinsulanonda. We have no evidence for this claim, but recall that Prem refused through his many years to appear before parliament for a grilling. This would remove the capacity for proper scrutiny of government and for one of the more interesting interludes in parliament.

MPs should not be required to have party membership. This would take Thailand back to a period when horse-trading was the main means of building coalition governments and when buying and selling politicians was the norm. The idea of this proposal, again harking back to the Prem model of the 1980s, is to weaken political parties. By demanding coalition governments the outcome is weak government, strengthening the bureaucracy, military and the intrusive extra-parliamentary institutions of business, palace and judiciary.

PPT wonders just how many more fixes the Democrat Party requires before it could win an election?



3 responses

19 02 2011
Policing for a monarchy that requires protection | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] possible election campaign where we have no doubt the Ministry of Interior will pull out all stops to ensure the election of the current royalist coalition led by Abhisit […]

3 03 2011
Wishing away murder, election fixing and policy corruption | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] but we urge readers to look again at our posts on “fixing the election,” here, here and here. These actions, ranging from huge budget handouts to salary increases for officials and murder and […]

6 03 2011
Kasit at the U.N. Human Rights Council | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] more than a political proclamation of how the current coalition and its army partners would seek to fix an election. Kasit might have also have trumpeted the current regimes huge efforts to pour funds into the […]

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