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Blind support for politicians does little for democracy

It appears many Bangkokians have already made up their minds about who they want as governor, even though the candidates only got to register on Monday. This is probably because most city residents are more than fully committed to their favourite political party and leaders.



For instance, no matter how hard Democrat Sukhumbhand Paribatra tries to woo voters over the next month or so, he will not be winning a single vote from the red shirts, who are staunch supporters of Pheu Thai and its candidate Pol General Pongsapat Pongcharoen.

In fact, this divide has become so well-defined that some citizens, who are neither pro-Democrat or Pheu Thai, say it might be futile to vote for any independent candidates because most of the votes will go to either Sukhumbhand or Pongsapat.

In a Twitter exchange on Monday, I asked Sukhumbhand if he had any hopes of wooing the red shirts, when one of his supporters (@jaaebaby) interjected, tweeting: "The reds will never change their mind and choose [Sukhumbhand]. Just like us who will never change our minds and vote for the party that set buildings on fire [in 2010]."

The tweeter was referring to the burning down of CentralWorld on May 19, 2010, in the aftermath of the crackdown on the red shirts.

One can't help but wonder if this is how democracy is supposed to function? Affinity to a political party should not become a religion or a cult where one surrenders and provides blind support without any doubt, scrutiny or accountability.

Yet more Thais are subscribing to politics with religious zeal - choosing to never question the politicians they support, love or even revere, and despise those who think differently, not unlike some religious fundamentalists.

It has become "common" for those who hate former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra to use all sorts of foul language against him on social networking sites, and now this loathing has extended to his sister, Prime Minister Yingluck, who is often referred to as a "sex object" by them.

One such tweet came from @Vvsay7: "Every time I look at Yingluck's face, I get excited. It's okay if you don't believe me, but she IS my type."

This user, who continued posting sexist messages about Thailand's first female prime minister, has suddenly and inexplicably been suspended by Twitter. Yet, there are many others like this and it's not difficult to find even ruder remarks on social-networking websites.

Sukhumbhand, in comparison, is ridiculed for stumbling speeches and sometimes referred to as autistic or slightly retarded.

There is no way this democracy is going to advance if people continue treating their favourite politician as a messiah and opponents as creatures that are less than human. Yet this is exactly what has been happening in Thailand for the past six years.

Politics is about quid pro quo - an equal exchange in which we subject our political representatives to scrutiny in exchange for our support, not the other way round.

Supporters of different political groups should encourage criticism and scrutiny of their leaders so they can function honestly and do what is beneficial to society as a whole.

Such cult-like attitude towards politicians and society leaders is tantamount to people handing them blank cheque. If you give politicians a blank cheque and swear to love them no matter what, they don't feel the need to be accountable.

To make matters worse, many of these supporters are so caught up in their religious fervour that they won't let anyone else criticise their leaders.

Turning a blind eye to your favourite politician's shortcomings, and defending them blindly will only make this society less democratic, less sane and more dogmatic.




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