Giles Ji Ungpakorn
Yingluk and her Pua Thai government were pressurised into dissolving parliament by a nasty coalition of Sutep Tuaksuban’s Democrats, middle-class protesters, pro-military academics, conservative civil servants and NGO groups. This is the same coalition which supported the 2006 military coup.
Having now tasted blood, they want more. They are demanding that Yingluk resigns her position as caretaker Prime Minster, a role stipulated by the Constitution. They want the election to be boycotted by opposition parties. They also want to postpone the general election, which is due in early February. They are justifying this by their dishonest claim to want to “reform” Thai politics before any new election. But what they are really seeking is to change the election rules so that the Democrat Party can win more parliamentary seats. The Democrats have never won more than a third of the national vote over the last 20 years. This is because the party is a conservative party of the elites and big business which is against using public funds to provide jobs, welfare and decent health care. In addition to the vote-fixing which they seek, they want to reduce the role of elected politicians and increase the role and power, even further, of elite-appointed conservatives. Already the military appointed Constitutional Judges have ruled that they can prevent an elected parliament from changing the Constitution.
Disgracefully, the Electoral Commission, which is supposed to over-see free and fair democratic elections, is also putting pressure on the government to postpone the election and compromise with those who wish to reduce the democratic space. The Pua Thai Party and their supporters in the UDD Red Shirt leadership have failed to counter these attacks on democracy. Yingluk is sleep-walking into a trap set by elite anti-democratic forces. Earlier, her party made a dirty deal with the military, promising to give amnesty to the generals and the Democrat politicians who murdered protesters in 2010. Pua Thai hoped then to be able to bring Taksin home. Another part of that deal was to assure the military that it would retain all its power and privileges and also defend the continued use of lèse majesté. So far the military has been sitting on the fence in the confrontation between Sutep and Yingluk.
Real democratic reforms would involve a complete overhaul of the judiciary, the introduction of a jury system, the withdrawal of the military from politics and the media, the scrapping of the lèse majesté law and the end to impunity for state murderers and coup makers. However, this is very far from the minds of those who now bleat out the call for “political reform”.