Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Thais have protest vote power



Thais have protest vote power

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
A woman holds a sign against the military coup as anti-junta protesters demand elections in Bangkok in February. The gathering was in defiance of a junta ban on protests to call for a return to democracy. AFP

Thais have protest vote power

The Nation (Thailand)/ANN: Political parties in Thailand are aligning behind junta leader, but Thais still have power of a protest vote.

No one should have any doubts about Prayut Chan-o-cha’s future political path. Reading between the lines of his statements, it’s now plain that the function of the coming election is to legitimise and extend the general’s stay in power.

Monday was the deadline for politicians to choose parties they want to join, 90 days ahead of the election scheduled for February 24.

But that timeframe only applied for ordinary politicians. Junta chief Prayut is an exceptional case. He has the backing of the junta-sponsored Constitution, which allows him to retain his post as prime minister without receiving a single vote from the people.

While parties such as Palang Pracharat and the Action Coalition for Thailand have announced they were launched in order to secure Prayut in that post, the junta chief said it was unnecessary for him to join their election bid.

“I talked to the legal team: I don’t need to be a member or anything,” Prayut said, adding that he had not been approached by any party. He also said his political future would be clearer once all the electoral laws were in place.

“I don’t know if I will accept the invitation [of any party]. Let’s see what I decide and if their offer matches my desires,” Prayut told reporters.

The words indicate Prayut wants to be viewed as an angelic presence, hovering above the evil election fray before eventually incarnating when the winners invite him to rule the country.

Political parties must, by law, list their candidates for the government top job. But Prayut can rest safe in the knowledge that the law also says if MPs fail to select a candidate from party lists, they can ask Parliament to allow the candidacy of “outsiders”.

The junta chief, who in 2014 staged a coup to oust a government that enjoyed a popular mandate, can also afford to ignore whatever campaign policies and promises are made to voters by parties.

The votes of Thais will be rendered meaningless. Whatever policies of the parties they vote for, the politicians who pledged them will flock to support Prayut in an extension of his rule.

While analysts regard parties like the Democrats and Bhumjaithai as the pivotal factor, since their backing may be needed by the winner to form the government, some politicians are adamant they will not ally with “proxies” of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra. They prefer, in other words, to join the bandwagon supporting Prayut as next prime minister, rather than their own party leaders.

Prayut believes that his pet social welfare project Pracharat – a name co-opted by the Palang Pracharat Party that supports him – will win the hearts and minds of voters. This is a favourite strategy among the Thai elite:
exploiting the national budget for political gain by forging populist giveaways.

The hands of the people have already been tied ahead of the election. The junta’s 20-year strategic plan offers parties a stark choice: toe its policy line or be thrown out of government.

Thais do, though, have a way of exercising what little democratic will remains in their hands. With their ballots in February, they can show their opinion of four year’s rule under Prayut.

The result could at least pull the country in a direction away from the military-backed and authoritarian regime of the last four years.

MOST VIEWED

  • Hun Sen: Stop Russia sanctions

    Prime Minister Hun Sen said sanctions against Russia as a result of its military offensive in Ukraine should be stopped as they have produced no tangible results, and predicted that a global food crisis would ensue in 2023 as a consequence. Speaking to an audience at

  • Chinese tourists 2.0 – Coming anytime soon?

    Regional tourism is grappling with the absence of the prolific travellers and big spenders – the Chinese tourists. Cambodia, which has welcomed over two million Chinese tourists before Covid-19, is reeling from the economic loss despite being the first to fully open last November ‘To put

  • PM reflects on shoe throwing: Free speech or act of violence?

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on May 17 questioned whether a man who threw a shoe at him while he was in the US was exercising freedom of expression or if it was an act of hostility. Hun Sen was referring to an incident last week when

  • Siem Reap’s Angkor Botanical Garden opens

    The Angkor Botanical Garden was officially opened on May 19 with free entry for both local and international visitors for the first six weeks. The garden was established on a nearly 15ha plot of land in Siem Reap. “After the first six weeks, Angkor Botanical Garden

  • Prime Minister Hun Sen invites US president to attend summit in Cambodia

    Prime Minister Hun Sen personally invited US President Joe Biden to attend the ASEAN-US Summit which is set to be held in Cambodia in November, as ASEAN and the US are expected to upgrade their strategic partnership to a ‘comprehensive strategic partnership’, according to Prime

  • Pub Street on the cards for Battambang

    The Battambang Provincial Authority has announced that it is considering establishing a Pub Street in the area around the heritage buildings in Battambang town in a bid to attract more tourists. Battambang provincial governor Sok Lou told The Post that the establishment of a Pub