On the evening before the one month anniversary of the March 24 general election, two soldiers sat aimlessly, guarding Victory Monument. It was a graphic reflection of the state of Juntaland today.
Why are they still guarding such a public space, nearly five years after the coup and a month after the elections? When will they return to the barracks? I know I won’t get any answers from the two soldiers themselves – they were just following the orders of their superiors to sit there, with nothing to do but remind the public who’s boss.
Besides, there’s no guarantee that the election will deliver an exit from military rule.
The Election Commission has committed an act of unthinkable blunder by failing to stick to a clear and universally accepted formula for the allocation of party-list MP seats. Instead of making the formula clear before the election, weeks later they passed the responsibility on to the Constitutional Court. The Commission’s petition was on Wednesday rejected by the Constitutional Court, who ruled it’s the Commission’s responsibility to come up with a distribution of seats that is constitutional.
What if in the end the pro-junta Phalang Pracharath Party forms government, with the help of the votes of the 250 senators – themselves selected by junta leader Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha (who “coincidentally” happens to be Phalang Pracharath’s prime ministerial candidate)? The opposition will still likely have enough MP seats to easily defeat the pro-junta regime in a no-confidence motion.
Like a jazz player who improvises, it’s likely that Prayuth is fixated with becoming prime minister again, while leaving the question of how to deal with the opposition for later.
Future Forward Party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, who will command the third-largest portion of seats, may be disqualified due to his alleged failure to transfer shares in V-Luck Media – which owns a defunct magazine called WhO. If that fails, there remain sedition charges against him.
But the repercussions of disqualifying Thanathorn will be severe, particularly because so many young voters have placed hopes in him for change.
(For disclosure, Thanathorn was previously an executive board member of Matichon Group, which owns Khaosod English. He stepped down many months ago.)
Many know that the rules governing the election were unfair and written by people chosen by Prayuth for the purposes of maximizing his chances of returning as prime minister. They know these things because political parties were banned from engaging in political activities for four years, until just a few months before the election, even while Prayuth monopolized prime airtime on public TV channels every Friday.
Elections are supposed to be about the people determining the future of their country. Many Thai voters have chosen a peaceful way to change the government under which they live, and their voices deserve to be heeded, not cast aside or forced underground. Let’s give elections a chance.