Conflicting parties are on a road to nowhere

national January 17, 2014 00:00

By Somroutai Sapsomboon

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While the nation is calling for a solution to the political crisis, which is having a severe impact, the parties directly involved in the conflict are facing a dead end.

The People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) continues to move ahead on its own path, although the PDRC leaders themselves do not know when or how they will reach their goal.

PDRC chief Suthep Thaugsuban announced he did not want the military to seize power but he wanted to carry out a people’s revolution. He said if the people successfully staged a revolution then the people (actually the PDRC) would have power to rule the country.

He said orders given by the people would become laws that all sides must respect. However, since the caretaker government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra refuses to agree with what the PDRC is doing, how can it accept the PDRC’s orders?

And how can orders that no one would obey – be orders?

Although the PDRC cannot win, it can still escalate its rallies to ramp up pressure on the government; and so it has carried out the operation to shut down Bangkok since Monday. However, the Bangkok shutdown operation has not cornered the government so far. As a result, Suthep has had to resort to threatening the capture of Yingluck and some of her Cabinet members.

Suthep said the goal of the Bangkok shutdown operation was to render the government as a failed government. He said he did not want to cause a failed state; he wanted to leave the government unable to run the country and become a lame-duck administration. His final goal is to pressure government officials to announce their stand to support the people. In particular, he wants the armed forces to declare that they side with the people to pressure the caretaker government to resign.

Meanwhile, the government still adheres to what it sees as the prescribed laws and will not give in to the PDRC’s demands.

Actually, the government is using the laws as its shield so that it can remain in power as long as possible. Although in the latest move, the government appeared to leave the door to election postponement slightly open, it adhered to its own style that it would not initiate the postponement. Instead, it indicated it would try to go on buying time.

The Election Commission has proposed the government defer the election by enacting a new royal decree to set a new election date. However, the government insists that it cannot do so. The government argued that the EC itself has the authority to set a new election date because the EC is a co-executor of the House dissolution royal decree, which set the election date on February 2. The government also invited all sides to participate in a discussion on the delay proposal. But it turned out that most participants came from the group that supports the government’s stand so the meeting did not lead to any change in the February 2 election.

The government realizes – like all others – that the February 2 election would be useless. Although the election can be held, the first House meeting will lack a quorum and cannot be conducted and the next government cannot be formed.

As a result, the best way is to defer the election. But the government would not step back and would not initiate an election delay apparently because it fears that if it issues a royal decree to defer the election, it may face a lawsuit later. And the government apparently believes that it has not been cornered yet and may still be able to contest the election.

“The February 2 election will not end the game but we will have an advantage. If the election is delayed, the game will not be over either but we will be at a disadvantage,” a Pheu Thai source said, reflecting the government’s attitude.

Actually, if the government does not fear losing face, it could simply say that it is ready to postpone the election and all sides concerned must join a discussion on what laws could be used to defer it. It could say all parties must discuss what should be done during the deferment period and how long the poll should be delayed. In other words, the election must be delayed so that all sides can join in drafting commonly-accepted rules and all sides can agree on a new election date.

But the government must first express its stand clearly – that it is ready to postpone the election so that all sides will join a discussion.

A new measure that has been discussed recently is to seek a ruling by the Constitutional Court. Both the government and the EC said Article 214 of the Constitution might be invoked to seek the ruling because the EC and the government could not agree on the election’s delay.

Another way is to have the election held as scheduled on February 2 and the Constitutional Court will be asked to annul it like the annulment of the April 2 2006 poll.

Clearly, the government must initiate efforts to seek a way-out – unless the government wants the country to read it too as having reached a dead end.