Repackaging old dreams

16 11 2015

Thailand’s conservatives and anti-democrats desperately want an unelected premier. Their view, as it has been for almost four decades, is that this will allow them to get a “right” and “good” person to run the country in their interests. They think that things were better under unelected premiers like Sanya Dharmasakti, Thanin Kraivixien, Prem Tinsulanonda and Anand Panyarachun.

Each of those men had the strongest possible support from the politically-activist palace. The royalist elite is seeking a way to ensure it can select a leader in a situation where they can no longer rely on a king to do the extra-constitutional work for them.

This is why Meechai Ruchupan’s constitutional drafters have come up with an old idea and are wrapping it in new garb. The new garb is sold as something for the young ones. A hip way to get politics out of the clutches of the “red buffalo.”

In a report at The Nation, these old ideas are touted by one of the committee of old conservatives as “new political creations.” By this they mean the notion of a “the single-ballot voting system and the premier candidates list,” which they say are “for the rising generation who were increasingly sophisticated, educated and urbanised…”. We guess they are thinking that those Bangkokians who are anti-democrats will like the idea if it distinguishes them as educated voters, and somehow better than the rabble in villages.

As the Bangkok Post explains it, the “proposal is for parties to submit a list of between one and five candidates prior to an election, with parliament then choosing the prime minister from the list after the election. Each party would have complete freedom to nominate anyone they wanted, even if they are not an MP.”

The intent is clear – they want an unelected prime minister.

Yet this concoction is marketed as a nonsense: as a system that makes “each party … disclose publicly so that voters would know beforehand who would become premier if they voted for a constituency candidate of the party.” This is a pile of horse manure. We cannot think of an election where voters have been sprung with a prime minister who was not the leader of the party during an election campaign. The last time there was something close to this was when the country kept getting Prem as premier while voting for parties. Prem wasn’t ever an elected member of parliament, but he became premier because the military and palace wanted it that way and there was a military constitution that allowed it.

Packaging old-fashioned conservatism with pies of horse manure doesn’t strike PPT as attractive, even for Bangkok hipsters. Yet, in the end, it is the old men close tot palace and military who decide what happens in Thailand. And they want to keep it that way.


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