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Analysis: A principle for democracy?

Since the September, 2006 coup and the dissolution of the main political parties (TRT in 2007 and PPP in 2008), Thailand has undergone serious internal political turmoil, including distrust among classes and political groupings.

Urban and countryside societies are crying foul and calling for reforms and reconciliation. Indeed, reconciliation surely needs trust and sincere commitment by politicians, the elected officials.

Since the people’s revolution of 1932, which brought a change from  absolute monarchy to constitutional monarchy, the Thai people have lived through at least 17 coups d’état, followed by a series of general elections, in order to establish a truly democratic society in which people elect their representatives to exercise power on their behalf.  

Thailand is similar to contemporary parliamentary democratic countries in that the King reigns but does not govern. The monarch allows his subjects to exercise their rights to fullest extent so the country can be governed democratically.

Last year, popular protests caused grave concerns among Thai politicians and the international community. People protests triggered anger and violence that resulted in more than 90 deaths and 2,000 injuries.

To avoid such political turbulence, and to follow up with the international pattern of overcoming that social crisis, Abhisit Vejjajiva requested a dissolution of the House of Representatives and set the date of July 3 for the general election.

There has been intense campaigning by political parties and their candidates throughout the country, notably the Pheu Thai, with their representatives from the defunct TRT and PPP versus the current ruling Democrats party, which foreign observers considered as the loyalists of the 2006 coup group.

On June 12, The Bangkok Post published a story headed “EC: Poll results will be recognised.” It stated that the Election Commission was confident the results of the July 3 election would be recognised by all concerned, including foreign observers.

But when asked about the requests from foreign agencies to send representatives to observe the election, the EC said it was in the process of  “screening” them.

To this end, one would question the people or groups who are going to witness the Thai election. Are they coming to observe freely, fairly or credibly according to international practices?

According to those practices, those monitoring the election need to be internationally recognised.

Normally, teams from the US or the EU come at the beginning, observing the freedom of the campaigns, administering the process till the counting of the ballots and issuing a certification concluding that “the election was conducted credibly and was largely free and fair”.

It’s believed, however, that this will not be the case in Thailand, as July 3 is only 13 days away. Furthermore, there has been no tradition of having international monitoring mechanisms anyway.

Various polls conducted by well-known organisations in Thailand show that the Pheu Thai Party leader, former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s sister Yingluck, has been gaining popularity.

The latest poll shows that in 331 of the 375 constituencies, Pheu Thai would win  164 seats and the Democrats would win only 83 seats. Moreover, an official of one of the parties in Bangkok predicted that Pheu Thai would grab between 210 and  240 of the country’s 500 seats, which would be enough for Pheu Thai to form a government coalition with  smaller parties as their predecessors (TRT and PPP) hav done in the past.

But, given the fact that the presence of foreign observers is in question and it’s unknown whether the Election Commission of Thailand would recognise the results of the election, would all parties who are participating in the elections honour the results?

If the winning party doesn’t have a majority in the parliament, but does have sufficient credibility to mobilise the smaller parties to form a government, would the new opposition allow them to run the country freely?

“Free, fair and credible” are the templates used to enunciate one of the fundamental principles for attaining real,  transparent democracy.

In principle, a real democracy is obtained from people power, where voters can freely express their opinions and  select their favoured representative through elections.

To honour the result of an election and allow the government to govern the nation freely without any interference from use of force is indeed the mark of a real democracy.

The international community, ASEAN and especially Thailand’s neighbours have been closely watching this once-tainted democracy since the 2006 coup and the dissolution of its main political parties, the TRT and the PPP.

To honour the result of this election will  prove the political sincerity of Thailand internally, regionally and internationally.

Sam Sotha is a former Ambassador for Mine Action, Explosive Remnants of War (ERW), Cluster Munitions and Disarmament. He is now serving as Advisor to the Prime Minister and Secretary of State of the Office of the Council of Ministers.  the author of the book In The Shade of A Quiet killing Place, his Personal Memoir. The opinions above are his own.



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