The bigger bang question concerns the military’s view on Abhisit’s apparent desire to hold early elections. The military has expanded its powers during Abhisit’s term, which isn’t due to expire until December 2011. Its unclear whether Prayuth and other royalist top brass would risk the scenario of a Puea Thai election win while Bhumibol is in poor health and unresolved questions linger about the UDD’s and Puea Thai’s loyalty to the crown.

– Extracted from Shawn Crispin, “Thai colors bleed a complicated mosaic, Asia Times Online, 21 September 2010.

For what it’s worth, my longstanding working assumption is that for all of the occasional bluster those who actually provide high-level political support to the Abhisit Vejjajiva government are petrified of elections. It seems the government’s backers have precisely no stomach for a popular test of their political actions (2006-2010). Over the years I have seen little that changes this over-arching assessment.

I have no idea whether General Prayuth Chan-ocha is prepared to risk an election; but I am far from persuaded that even Prime Minister Abhisit or some of the more democratically-minded Democrats really want to go to the polls. The question that preoccupies my thinking on this issue is: can the Democrats (and their backers) risk an election at any time before the king passes and the royal succession is resolved? The Democrat Party’s long history of weak electoral showings must caution them against rolling those particular dice at this sensitive time. If they were to lose (which I assume they still think is likely) they might be vulnerable to a sharp period of retribution, and surely the lingering uncertainties around the succession militate against any such risk-taking.

What do New Mandala readers think? When do you think we will see the next national elections in Thailand? A specific month and year would help us all to get a better feel for your assessments.