On election night we wrote:
The central question for Thailand’s democracy is this: will the royalist-military elite that staged the September 2006 coup be willing to accept the election of Thaksin’s proxy party? Finding themselves back at square one after 15 months will be a bitter pill to swallow. Military action against the election result seems highly unlikely, though it cannot be ruled out. More likely is a concerted judicial attack on the elected government. This may take the form of a series of challenges to constituency results. The current military regime has worked hard to keep the spectre of electoral irregularity and vote buying alive and they may waste no time in arguing, as they did in relation to the Thaksin government, that the People Power victory was bought from an ill-informed and easily manipulated electorate.
Now the issuing of “red cards” to the successful People Power Party has started in earnest with speculation that up to 60 candidates may be disqualified (for good summary coverage see Bangkok Pundit). As expected the common charge against disqualified candidates is the tired old charge of vote buying. This legal manoeuvring is just so predictable. As I wrote a few months ago:
Some members of the ruling regime in Thailand have reacted with predicable nationalist outrage to a European Union request to send observers to the forthcoming general election. Why such a defensive response? I don’t think it is because the junta holds out some hope of ballot-box manipulation. Quite the opposite. What the current regime fears most is that the Thai electoral process could be internationally recognised as being relatively clean. The “sufficiency democracy” paradigm that they promote is based on the view that the electoral process is so compromised by money politics that it can be cast aside when it delivers an unpalatable result. Slandering the electoral process is the ideological bread and butter of the coup-endorsing Thai elite. With European Observers on the ground, the elite’s ongoing attempts to discredit electoral democracy will be all the more difficult.
Just how far the powers that be are willing to go in their current coup by stealth remains to be seen. They will do everything they can to muddy the electoral waters.