General Prayut Chan-o-cha was elected by Parliament last Wednesday to continue serving as prime minister.
Five years after he took power by launching a military coup against a democratically elected government, Prayut was confirmed by a mostly democratically elected Parliament.
It did not hurt his chances that he had 250 appointed members of the Senate voting in his favour. The senators were all appointed by the junta, under provisions in a Constitution drafted by the junta, and voted unanimously as a bloc to make Prayut the prime minister.
It is little wonder then that Thais
are up in arms about the whole
Many have taken to social media with the hashtag #RIPThailand and #PrayforThailand. Others posting on social media have accused the military of unfair play and setting back Thai democracy.
An inconvenient truth
One fact that many commentators are skirting or even ignoring altogether is that even if all 250 members of the Senate had not taken part in the selection process, Prayut would still have been confirmed as prime minister. He won Wednesday’s contest by a margin of 500 to 244 votes. Take away 250 seats and he would still have won.
Of course, this ignores the political wrangling that may have occurred had the Senate not been in play, but the inconvenient truth is that a significant portion of the populace supports both the general and the military.
In the March 24 general election, the military-aligned Phalang Pracharath Party won the popular vote with 8.4 million votes. Three years ago, the 2016 referendum which enshrined military rule and paved way for the appointed senate won by over a million votes.
Prayut scores high in popularity polls run by both civilians and the military even when matched against his political opponents.
But the cancer in Thai democracy is not the military and never has been. The military has always been a blunt instrument, determined to bend the political process to its ideas of tradition, its appetite for power and its cosy relationship with the conservative elements in Thai society.
The military and the significant number of people who support it cannot be called a democratic cancer because it does not support the process to begin with.
It might hold an election here or there to appease the populace and Thailand’s international allies, but there is no real belief in democracy. Polls are just an inconvenience, but necessary to appease the unwashed masses.
The real cancer within the system is the small political parties willing to strike a deal with whatever side wins the general election.
The poorly named Democrat Party, Bhumjaithai Party and plethora of small parties that joined the junta last Wednesday in voting for Prayut would undoubtedly have swung the other way and sided with the opposition had the Senate not been in play. They have switched sides before and often, and will do it again.
We have written about the Democrat Party before and not much more needs to be said. Perhaps the reason Thailand’s oldest party constantly needs to profess its allegiance to democracy is because it has so often betrayed the process.
As for the other parties, most are nothing more than fiefdoms run by the same families for decades, focused only on getting and retaining power. There is no democratic ideal here; there was never even the pretence of one. There are no party platforms, no manifestos, just a quick copy-and-paste of what is most popular and what will get them the most number of seats so they can side with the biggest party.
Thai democracy will never be healthy until genuine policy-based voting replaces the clientelism that prevails in the countryside.
As of right now, unfortunately, there is simply too much money and too much power at stake for politicians to loosen their stranglehold on power. Politicians would have too much to lose by promoting the real political education that would see a paradigm shift in the political process. – Asia News Network