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in-focus

Commoner Party ready to take an uncommon approach


AMID INCREASING disillusionment with politicians for failing to protect the public interest, more and more common citizens are entering the political fray to take up their causes.

The “Commoners Party” is one such endeavour. Its founder is not pledging to be a “good person”, but vows to ensure that people can truly represent themselves in Parliament.
With decades of background as a social and political activist, the founder of the new Commoners Party, Kittichai Ngamchaipisit, told The Nation in an exclusive interview that the time had come for people to enter politics to represent their own interests.
People are ready and they have had enough of current politics, he said.
“So, we have this dream of founding our own party to be a channel that will truly connect people with the parliamentary system,” he explained.
“And we want to highlight that politics is not necessarily dirty. It is not, as people say, about getting your hands dirty. Some day, I’ll say I did not promise to be a good person but to make sure that the party is democratic and that everyone is accountable.”
Kittichai said the idea of floating a party had been broached by activists since 2011. The desire followed frustrations after years of deep conflict triggered by the 2006 coup d’etat.
“Violence was seen in the streets. People lost faith in politicians,” he said.
“Parties were weakened and people were thinking that there were just old faces and they weren’t representing the people’s interests.”
The 47-year-old activist said that instead of moaning about how bad politicians were, they decided to form a party that would truly allow the people to participate in managing and developing the country. He said the plan was delayed because of the 2014 coup.
When registration for political parties was opened, they took the opportunity to float the new party in the hope that they would be able to drive their agenda after the election.
Kittichai said that he still saw the importance of civil society’s role to support the public interest, involving human rights, economics, or politics. But in the past civil society was out of tune with politicians, he said.
“We hope that we can win five to six seats in Parliament and one seat as a minister,” the activist-turned-politician said.
“It could be the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security or Labour or Agriculture. These are the areas people mostly have problems with.”
Some wonder how these NGOs would connect with the people once they were in Parliament. Kittichai explained that the key lies in the way they gain votes.
Traditionally, canvassers are influential figures within an area, he said, but the Commoners Party would have canvassers who are leaders pushing an agenda, he said.
“The canvasser could be someone interested in, for example, land reforms. They can talk to us about what they want. If we agree and promise to help realise the reform they want, they may say they will vote for us and encourage their friends who share the same interest or problem to vote for us, too,” he said.
A co-founder of the party, Chumaporn Taengkliang, said that traditional politicians may agree to also bring about reforms. “But the problem was that there were different models of how to do it. And never in history have they chosen the model that would truly benefit the people,” she said.
“The current parties just represent capitalists, bureaucrats or elites. But we want those people who are facing issues to have representatives in Parliament. So, the commoners are ordinary people. We are the people who have been fraught with problems,” Kittichai added.
“Sitting in Parliament not only will enable them to float their agenda but also be able to fight for it and actually realise what they want,” Kittichai said.

Published : April 10, 2018

By : KAS CHANWANPEN THE NATION