Wingnuts From the Right? Lefty Loonies? All Welcome in the Game of Votes

Suthep Thaugsuban sheds tears June 3 at a Power of Thai People’s Nation Party assembly.
Suthep Thaugsuban sheds tears June 3 at a Power of Thai People’s Nation Party assembly.

Re•tention: Pravit RojanaphrukSay what you will about the ultra-conservative, ultra-royalist and ultra-nationalist Action Coalition for Thailand, but it’s a sign that something is on the right track.

The ACT Party, as it is known in English, is now promoting its ideology to potential members and voters, and this is not a bad thing.

In fact, it is a positive development because Thai politics needs to be more ideology-driven and less dependent on outsized personalities and the notion of supporting the “lesser of two evils.”

Of course it is led, though not officially, by a very outsized personality. Suthep Thaugsuban may be a high-profile figure whose shutdown of Bangkok paved way for the 2014 coup, but other lesser-known figures had a chance to state their ideology too. At their first meeting two weeks ago, key members took to the floor to espouse the party’s core doctrines of holding the monarchy above everything, ultra-nationalist oaths and aspirations for broad reforms.

Readers may agree or disagree with Suthep and the party, but it is absolutely preferable to have fellow citizens trying to convince others to support them at a ballot box by peddling their ideas instead of mobilizing people to paralyze the capital as they did four-plus years ago.

Street politics in Thailand have become, for many reasons, too prone to disruption, violence and loss of life, and shifting that conflict and ideological struggle into electoral politics is a welcome development.

By forming a political party seemingly more conservative and royalist than the Democrat Party, voters now have an alternative.

It can be hoped that the more different major political parties’ ideologies differentiate from each other, the more Thais will approach politics and elections on an ideological basis instead of erecting road barricades, as both sides have done in the past.

Bring political debate and conflict to the table. Peacefully convince people to subscribe to your ideology. Compete in elections. These sound simply but have largely elude Thai society.

The ACT Party – or Palang Prachachat Thai (Power of Thai People’s Nation) – is not alone.

At least two other new parties appear to have a clear ideological basis.

There’s the Future Forward Party led by Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, which is offering itself as a party fed up with the decade-long political deadlock dubbed “the lost decade.”

Most of its founders and executives are drawn from the so-called left-wing, progressive, educated middle class. The party has vowed to draft a new constitution to replace the current, junta-sponsored version of 2017. So if you are anti-junta and critical of the monarchy, belong to the educated middle class, this is the party you could likely identify with, ideologically speaking.

Meanwhile, another much lesser-known party, the Commoner Party (Pak Khon Thammada) doesn’t spend much time trying to win the hearts of voters much beyond appealing to people in the provinces and sympathetic middle class to support issues of social and economic disparity between rural and urban, rich and poor and those with access to unequal educations.

Ideology is a basis for the realization of an ideal society and peaceful debate; and competition among various ideologies is definitely a boon for Thailand that should be further encouraged.