Location Thailand Thailand

Thailand: Result of General Election Produces Stalemate and Deadlock

by Joseph Adams

The result of the general election in Thailand on March 24th has produced a stalemate and deadlock between the two main parties in Thailand. The Palang Pracharat Party (PPRP), led by Prime Minister Prayut-chan-ocha and supported by the military, claimed to have won the popular vote. However, officially, the bourgeois populist Pheu Thai Party, which has won every general election in Thailand, has won 137 seats in the lower House of Representatives and is, again, the biggest party represented.

“Thai politics has descended into chaos after its first election since a 2014 coup, as two parties claimed the right to govern, the electoral commission refused to announce the official result and concerns were raised over irregular polling data. Unofficial results from Sunday’s election indicated that the pro-military Phalang Pracharat party outperformed low expectations to win the most votes, while the pro-democracy Pheu Thai party narrowly won the most seats.” [1]

The election commission appointed by the military junta refuses to declare a result until after the new King’s coronation on May 9th. This shows that the military is still trying to manipulate the result and ensure that Prayut chan-o cha and his party becomes the new government against the wishes of the people’s choice which is to see a the Pheu Thai-led “Democratic Front” to take power again Thailand.

“With no party winning an outright majority, the scene has been set for both sides to attempt to build coalitions to form a government. The election was thrown into further disarray after the election commission refused to formally declare the exact number of parliamentary seats each party had won. The commission said it first had to investigate numerous issues and complaints which had arisen in the voting process. Official results are now expected on 9 May. The system was already heavily rigged in favour of the military. The new constitution, drawn up by the military in 2016, gives it the power to appoint all 250 senators, who then get a vote in who becomes prime minister. This means that the military only needed 126 votes in the lower house to bring back the head of the junta, Prayut Chan-ocha, as prime minister.” [2]

Two Parties Claim Right to Lead

The Pheu Thai party and seven other parties have announced to form a coalition government after the results showed that the pro-democracy parties in the election had won more seats than the pro-military Palang Pracharat party and its allies. The election commission is prevaricating over whether the Pheu Thai party and its democratic allies can be the lawful government. This is possible as the Thailand constitution recently amended insists that the 250 senators of the upper house senate participates in the decision on the appointment of Prime Minister. Since Prayut-chan-ocha was responsible for the appointment of Senators it is clear that the military junta will be able to fix the election in their favour.

“The Pheu Thai Party on Wednesday announced the formation of a seven-party coalition government with 255 MPs, vowing to stop the National Council for Peace and Order returning to power. Khunying Sudarat Keyuraphan, a candidate for prime minister, said Pheu Thai and its six allies stood firm in their determination to prevent Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha remaining in power. The pro-democracy parties had the mandate to form a coalition government; she stressed.“ [3]

“Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon on Wednesday shrugged off the announcement by the Pheu Thai Party and its allies of a prospective government coalition as being premature. They can talk, but the EC (Election Commission) has not officially announced the election results. Wait until after May 9,” Gen Prawit said. The commission has said it will announce the official results by May 9.” [4]

Thailand Democratic System Flawed

The democratic system is flawed with the election being controlled and manipulated by the military junta refusing to accept the result of the Election which returned the populist Pheu Thai party to power. But Prayut-chan-ocha and the military are determined to continue their rule irrespective of the people’s choice. Election irregularities of vote buying and intimidation have been reported by the monitors overseeing the Election result.

“International independent observers have declared that the process of counting the votes in Thailand’s election lacked transparency and was “deeply flawed”, adding to a climate of mistrust and uncertainty in the country. Prior to the election, concerns had been raised by opposition figures and human rights groups that the military, which is seeking to hold on to power through the ballot box, would ensure this was neither a free nor fair election. Thanks to draconian legislation preventing criticism of the junta, the system was already skewed in its favour. In the buildup to the election, and on polling day, there were multiple reports of army resources being utilized to pressure voters into voting for Phalang Pracharat, with soldiers mobilized, particularly in remote rural areas away from the watchful eyes of the international community”. [5]

Many bourgeois commentators have commented that elections in Thailand have always been manipulated by the bourgeoisie to favour the ruling strata in Thailand society and have involved the military in restricting the rights of political parties to operate freely and without political interference. The bourgeois Pheu Thai party retains support amongst the masses and urban poor in the North and the southeast of Thailand, particularly in the rural areas. The ‘Red Shirts’ are closely allied to the Pheu Thai party and have come out in support of these populists when they were threatened by arrests, banning and closing down political parties as in the case of the Thai Raksa Chart Party closely allied to the Pheu Thai party.

“And yet, over the last two decades, the people of this region (the North East, Ed.) have been the strongest advocates of democracy and human rights. The political parties they have supported have won every national election since 2001. They are resilient because in the same period three times the party they supported was dissolved by the courts. Twice their prime ministers have been removed by court order and twice they have been overthrown by military coups the election is the latest step in a long game laid out by the coup-makers, the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), which overthrew the elected government in May of 2014. The first step in the plan was to bring into effect a constitution that would weaken larger parties and create conditions for unstable coalition governments to be elected. The 2017 constitutional amendments allow the Thai military to appoint the 250-seat senate in its entirety, which, along with the 500-seat House of Representatives, votes on the appointment of prime minister. This means that the army-backed NCPO can give the premiership to anyone of their liking”. [6]

The RCIT has commented in the past on the role of the populist Pheu Thai Party. We have explained that despite its support amongst layers of the urban poor and working class, it remains a bourgeois capitalist party which is committed to uphold the interests of the country’s semi-colonial capitalism. However, its support is waning as demonstrated by the comments of this bourgeois commentator.

Thaksin Support in the North Undermined

“For years, the Southeast Asian nation has been divided between mostly rural and northern supporters of Thaksin and his fierce opponents – mostly urban and middle class – who revile him as a corrupt demagogue. Amid spasms of street protests, the rival camps became known as “red shirts” and “yellow shirts”. Now, with the military entrenched in politics and the emergence of a charismatic figurehead of democracy who reminds voters of a younger Thaksin, the country’s political landscape is fragmenting. The emergence of populist, youthful billionaire Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, who promises an end to military “dictatorship”, appears to have drawn votes away from Thaksin. His Future Forward Party came third in Phayao town’s constituency with 16,326 votes”. [7]

The contradictions of imperialism and ever more draconian measures against the working class by the capitalist class in Thailand will force parties like the Pheu Thai party to adopt capitalist policies against workers and the poor when they serve in government. The world crisis of imperialism is driving countries like Thailand into debt and poverty.

Footnotes

1) https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/mar/25/two-parties-claim-right-to-lead-after-inconsistent-thai-elections

2) https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/mar/25/two-parties-claim-right-to-lead-after-inconsistent-thai-elections

3) https://www.bangkokpost.com/news/politics/1651900/pheu-thai-announces-7-party-coalition-with-255-mps

4) https://www.bangkokpost.com/news/politics/1651916/prawit-pheu-thai-all-talk-no-new-govt-until-after-coronation?utm_source=bangkopost.com&utm_medium=article_news&utm_campaign=most_recent_bottom_box

5) https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/mar/26/thai-election-process-deeply-flawed-independent-observers

6) https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/thailand-march-24-vote-matter-190321081544634.html

7) https://www.reuters.com/article/us-thailand-election-thaksin-insight/in-thailands-red-shirt-north-thaksins-grip-slowly-loosens-idUSKCN1RA0E9

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