The Election Commission of Thailand has indicated that constituency by-elections for banned MPs will go ahead on 11 January 2009 (the same day as the election for the Bangkok Governor). There will be 29 parliamentary seats to fill, in 26 constituencies in 22 different provinces. Of course there is no guarantee that these by-elections will go ahead. The anti-government forces will be courting further judicial intervention, or a military coup, to overturn the electoral process. But if the by-elections do proceed they will be an interesting test of popular will in a highly polarised political climate.
How will the defenders of democracy in the PAD behave in the by-election campaigns? Will they mobilise their formidable rhetorical and logistical machine to mount local campaigns in support of opposition candidates? Will plastic hand-clappers and iron bars become popular features of local political rallies? Will PAD cadres be walking the streets in the towns and villages of the 26 constituencies to provide some of their much-vaunted political education? Will yellow be the colour of local opposition campaigns? Will banners, leaflets and posters proclaiming the PAD’s “new politics” festoon light poles and shop awnings in the 22 lucky provinces?
I suspect not.
Opposition candidates are likely to keep as much distance between themselves and the PAD as possible. The last thing they want is for the by-elections to become a mini-referendum on the PAD’s recent provocations. The PAD is electoral poison and, as the economic and social impacts of PAD’s airport thuggery start to hit home, the potency of the poison will increase. There are numerous colourful and eccentric characters in Thai politics, but probably not many mad enough to campaign alongside the post-Suvanabhumi PAD.
And, of course, the PAD has never shown any interest in electoral processes. They hold the electorate in contempt. Their fundamental mission is to sabotage electoral politics not to contest it.