We can, you can’t

21 04 2018

The term “populism” has a curious meaning these days, often used to mean any political leader or politician who seeks to curry favor with “the people.” In Thailand, this has been, at least since the word was first translated into Thai, just prior to Thaksin Shinawatra’s first election victory, a term of political abuse.

Indeed, the military junta that seized power in 2014 was heard to attack “populism” as evil and a scourge to be eliminated. Be that as it may, this has not prevented The Dictator, in his campaigning efforts to make him and his regime more popular, from  promising and even allocating billions of baht to various groups. His doling out of promises and funds has particularly targeted those who his political strategists think are pro-Thakin.

As it promised it would do soon after the military coup, the junta has had its legislative puppets draft a law to make populism illegal.

The Nation reports that the new “law prohibits Cabinet members from attempting to boost their support with budget spending that may damage the economy.”

One section of the State Financial and Fiscal Discipline Act (2018) seeks to have it so that:

in preparing annual state budgets, managing the country’s monetary and fiscal affairs, and creating public debt, Cabinet members have to carefully take into consideration such factors as the benefit to the country and the people, worthiness, financial burden, risks and possible damage to state finances.

The section states: “The Cabinet shall not run the state’s affairs with a goal of creating political popularity that may cause damage to the country’s economy and people in the long run…”.

It requires that there be “conformity with national development plans.” It does not say that the junta has put a 20-year plan in place.

The effect of the new legislation, the junta’s strictures and the constitutional mechanisms for “independent” bodies, all put in place by the junta, mean that parties can’t do much at all or offer much in election campaigning for fear of being in violation of this law.

Who will decide which policy is populist and which isn’t? Of course, junta minions and anti-democrats placed in “independent” agencies lie the Constitutional Court will use the legislation to limit elected governments and control the. If this fails, the aw can be used to rid themselves of “populist” regimes.

Initially, The Dictator will control a committee that “will decide what economic policy would be defined as ‘populist policy’ that could have a serious negative impact on government finances.”

In other words, it is another rigging of the system. If his “party” gains an “election” victory, he’ll do as he pleases. If an opponent wins, they’ll be hog-tied.



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