An unelected government is now widely believed to be waiting in the wings to take the reigns of power. Yingluck Shinawatra is set to be removed from power either by the National Security Council transfer case or the rice pledging scandal.
Following her conviction, an unelected administration would be formed via special clauses in the Constitution. This mechanism is nothing if not controversial. Its use would certainly open even deeper divisions between the two sides of the political crisis.
Suthep Thaugsuban, leader of the anti-government campaign, on Wednesday called for a final rally to “finish off” Yingluck Shinawatra. We have heard him say the same thing numerous times before. But this time he sounded deadly serious. He has been leading the mass protests against Yingluck and her fugitive brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, since October 30 last year. The campaign has seen many ups and downs over the past five months. At the peak of his popularity, Suthep led millions of supporters out onto the streets to protest against Yingluck. But like a certain kind of soccer player, Suthep likes to run around with the ball rather than put it straight in the net.
Meanwhile we have had rumours of a military coup, as well as attacks on protesters involving guns and M-79 grenades that have killed dozens and injured upwards of 700. The pressure has mounted on Army Chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha to act and end the crisis. But Prayuth is no Prince Hamlet. He has not been haunted by his own indecisiveness or hesitation. He refuses to do anything that might upset the status quo. Reaching retirement at the end of September without military action is his ultimate goal.
Whenever a violent incident brings calls for him to intervene, Prayuth quickly dampens them down. ASTV analysts suspect he has a strong and longstanding relationship with Yingluck and Thaksin. Or, in other words, that he belongs to the other side of the political divide. Prayuth always urges a political settlement, even while the other side launches M79 grenades. At the same time, Suthep gets along very well with Prayuth. When the protest leader’s colleagues, Dr Seri Wongmontha, Anchalee Phaireerak et al, slammed Prayuth for failing to back the campaign, Suthep quickly spoke out in support of the Army chief.
The scenario is somewhat farcical, a political merry-go-round: Suthep would like to kick out Yingluck; Prayuth is friends with Yingluck and does not want to kick her out; Suthep is friends with Prayuth and supports his stance.
At the same time, the independent agencies are at work and look set to remove Yingluck. The red shirts have come out to support the premier and attack the independent agencies. But their power base seems to have weakened dramatically and they now fail to muster broad public support. In the end, Yingluck will be ousted by the independent agencies – not by Suthep and all the efforts of his mass protests. This is so ironic.
In fact, there was a window of opportunity to remove Yingluck on March 27, one day before the Senate election. Suthep summoned a mass rally, marching at its head all the way from Lumpini Park to Parliament, where hundreds of thousands of protesters roamed Government House and Parliament. On that day, he was supposed to stage a people’s revolution – without tearing up the Constitution. Expectations were that Suthep would resort to Article 3 of the Constitution, which states that sovereign power belongs to the people, and to Article 7, which allows the appointment of an interim prime minister under special circumstances – as seen in 1973 in the aftermath of the October 14 student uprising. In this scenario, the military would come out in support of the “people’s revolution”. But the political script fell apart. For some reason Suthep chose not to go through with it, and hence the crisis has continued.
Now Suthep wants a rally to end all rallies. On May 5, Coronation Day, he will lead protesters in a pledge of allegiance to Nationhood, Religion and the Monarchy. The red shirts will hold a parallel rally. Then on May 13, Suthep will organise mass prayers and merit-making for the country. On May 14, he vows to initiate actions to end the Yingluck government. But how? Once again, we haven’t been told.