The political crisis playing out on the streets of Bangkok revolves around one central question – is the Thai electorate the best judge of Thailand’s political future?
The government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra is firmly in the “yes” camp. Faced with growing street protests in December she dissolved parliament and called a snap election. Despite strenuous criticism of her opportunism, Yingluck has remained committed to the election–scheduled for Sunday–ever since, even though the Constitutional Court has told her she has the power to delay it. After anti-government protesters successfully disrupted pre-poll voting in Bangkok, some thought she would waver, fearing widespread violence on election day. She didn’t.
Of course, Yingluck’s commitment to electoral democracy is self-serving. She is determined to hold an election because she knows she will win it. Her brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, first came to power in the election of 2001. Thaksin or his allies have won every election since – 2005, 2006, 2007, and under Yingluck, in 2011. A military coup in 2006 and a series of unfavourable court rulings have not dented the electoral power of Thaksin’s political forces even though Thaksin himself now lives in exile.
The persistent pro-Thaksin judgement of the electorate infuriates Thailand’s opposition forces. The anti-government protesters are also self-serving in their judgement. They are bitterly opposed to an election because they know they will lose.
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