November 06, 2012 00:00 By Avudh Panananda
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva will share the limelight later this month - but for different reasons.
In the upcoming censure debate, many may have been anticipating the Yingluck-Abhisit verbal duel to be the main event. But they are likely to be disappointed. The two will not, in fact, engage in a one-on-one spat.
Abhisit is definitely going to make a fiery critique of the government’s performance.
But as hard as he will try to pin the target on Yingluck’s back, she will, with her wide-eyed innocent look, deflect his attack to someone else.
While he is poised to show his oratory skills in bringing Yingluck to task, he will also be judged by the court of public opinion on whether he has a fighting chance to lead the Democrats back into power.
Given the prevailing sentiment, he may have a tougher time than Yingluck to come out on top of the censure debate.
No one is expecting Yingluck to match Abhisit as an orator. But everyone wants to see whether his clever remarks are with or without substance.
If Abhisit cannot nail Yingluck for impropriety, then his censure could backfire and haunt him.
For the past year, the Democrats have been pursuing a political strategy to single out former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra as their adversary.
They portray Yingluck as a Thaksin clone unworthy of their attention. For a year, they have zoomed in on Thaksin and virtually left Yingluck alone.
They have helped make the prime minister less visible in broad daylight while chasing after the shadow of Thaksin.
It will be interesting, indeed, to see if Abhisit can pin any specific blame on Yingluck after he has ignored her for so long in order to focus on a bigger fish like Thaksin.
As bleak as the prospect is to bring down the government or fault Yingluck’s leadership, Abhisit has no choice but to proceed with the grilling.
The censure debate may at least help to level a playing field heavily tipped in Pheu Thai’s favour.
For Abhisit’s leadership to remain relevant, it is imperative the Democrats have a sound strategy to outwit Pheu Thai.
Voters have already been over-exposed to the so-called evils of Thaksin. The voting outcome will not swing to the Democrats unless there is a clear and better alternative.
Abhisit is busy lashing out at the flaws of the government but he appears unclear in spelling out other viable choices to those offered by Pheu Thai.
If the main opposition party wants to win trust, it is obliged to convince voters it can lead to a brighter future.
Should Abhisit fail to outline a sound alternative to Thaksin’s legacy, then it’s perhaps time for the Democrats to undergo a major overhaul.
The censure debate will likely become a watershed event to determine how the government and opposition will make the next move in their power struggle.
Although Yingluck is not at risk of losing her job, some of her populist policies may need a review.
Abhisit will see for himself whether the censure is validation of his leadership or a warning to start preparing for his exit.