Monday, March 12, 2007

Democrats: We Support Overthrowing Thaksin Undemocratically, We Support Military Juntas, We Don't Support An Unelected PM


CNS general backs law for unelected PM

The Nation

Sonthi denies interference as opposition lashes out at 'undemocratic' proposal

A Council for National Security (CNS) member yesterday backed the idea of leaving the option open in the new constitution for a non-elected person to become prime minister.

General Somjet Boonthanom, head of the CNS Secretariat, said he believed the proposal, raised during the constitution drafters' brainstorming session last week, was aimed at preventing a political deadlock similar to one ahead of last September's coup.

"This should be a good way out. The 1997 constitution provided no such exit and that led to a constitutional dead-end," the general said. "There were calls for a royally-appointed prime minister. And when there was really no way out, political changes by the military took place."

His viewpoint echoed the arguments by supporters of the proposal, which included Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) chairman Prasong Soonsiri.

Now, it makes sense that the generals would want an unelected prime minister to do their bidding.

But just like The Nation, the Democratic Party of Thailand can't resist to voice their hypocrisy as well.

Democrat Party spokesman Ongart Klampaiboon said yesterday that the public had struggled to have an elected PM, which had also led to bloodshed in May 1992.

"The spirit of the fight has continued and this proves that the power of people is above any other power. It is the most important democratic principle that the leader must be elected by the people and not those who have never offered themselves for public consideration," he said.

The Democrats are in bed with the junta, and will probably end up leading a coalition government with the junta's blessing, yet they deride the concept of an unelected prime minister. Isn't this the party that was calling for royal intervention to depose Thaksin and install an unelected PM at the height of the political crisis last year with the other so-called PAD democrats?


hobby said...

What's the big fuss about whether the PM is elected or not?
Surely the best person for the job (at a particular time) should be able to take up the position if necessary.

Has the process for appointing a non elected PM been outlined by those proposing it?

What would be so controversial about something like a 75% majority of parliament being sufficient to appoint a non elected PM?
At least that leaves the option of bringing in someone like Anand in a time of crisis.

My only concern is that someone like Thaksin could buy 75% of the elected MP's, but if that was the case then Thailand would get what it deserves anyway because it was the electorate who would have voted for those MP's in the first place.

Patiwat said...

Hobby, whenever an unelected PM was selected during a working parliamentary system, it has always been a General. Last time we had Suchinda, before that we had Prem, Kriangsak, Thanin, Sarit, and Thanom. So allowing an unelected PM is basically a means for the military to control the nation.

The only way to get the military out of politics is to force them to put down their guns and stand for elections if they want to lead.

hobby said...

Patiwat: I see your point, but my proposal might actually provide a circuit breaker to stop coups in the future.

When Thaksin was on the nose (I know mainly in Bangkok & South), people called on the King to make an appointment to solve the crisis - he refused.

If there was an alternative to an elected PM (like my 75% of the parlament proposal), perhaps the crisis could have been resolved without a coup.

It certainly would make it harder for the military to stage a 'popular' coup, and it would give the parlimentarians a great incentive to sort things out.

fall said...

The problem is there are no guarantee the best person for the job would be the non-elect PM. Anand was an exception, not the rule.
At the time the Dem and PAD were calling for M7 invoked. Who was the "best person" they were calling? I remember it was Apirak, not even someone from TRT. Would calling for Somkid to come-up solved the so called *deadlock* while respecting the majority vote, yes. If so, why did they not do that?

A direct unelected PM clause, to me, goes directly against democratic principle. I mean, its the same as giving the US a sole veto/appointment power to WTO leader. We can pretty much throw majority interest out the window.

hobby said...

fall: I dont think majority interest would be thrown out the window - we elect MP to represent, after all.

I don't have the same faith in the masses as you do, and I would say that direct election of the President in the USA is one reason why the eventual run-off candidates are usually of a poor quality.

I still cannot see what's wrong with the parliament choosing the PM from all Thai citizens whether they are elected MP's, generals, academics, business people, whatever. The 75% majority rule would only need to come into play if the person chosen was non elected.

As for why they did not bring in Somkid or anyone over Thaksin, well that might have a something to do Thaksin's ego.

fall said...

The mass had been shown time and again to be easily manipulated.
If there can be a way to get only the best people to run the country, then I am all for it.

But the problem is there is no guarantee the 75% parliament choice of person would be the best. Let alone that acceptable by law person would be acceptable to the mass. Judging from the past, say if this measure had been there and Somkid(elected) or someone with a hint TRT connection(non-elected) had been chosen. Would they be acceptable and the *deadlock* been solved? (I still remember some news quote about "slave-parliament")

Also, it would create pretext for opposition parties to go on strike every other year. As I said above, the mass would be manipulate, again, to fit to which ever side who pro/against the government. If directly apply, I am afraid it would do more harm than good in stabilizing the democratic process in Thailand.

hobby said...

fall: If it's in the constitution, and the people elected the MP's, then why wouldn't they accept the choice?

Remember the 75% rule would only apply where a non elected person was proposed for PM.
(Normal parliamentary rules would apply if the proposed PM was elected)

What's the point of opposition parties going on strike - that's what they did under the 1997 constitution and where did that lead?

At this stage, I still think the 75% rule would be a circuit breaker, and whatever happened I would argue that the process was democratic because the people would have elected the MP's in the full knowledge that it was in the constitution that they could choose a non elected PM in certain circumstances.

I'm a nobody so my opinion does not really matter, but so far you and patiwat have not convinced me that the 75% rule would not be an improvement.
(BTW, does anyone know what model is being proposed for a non elected PM?)

Fonzi said...

I think the idea of a consensus prime minister is an interesting one.

That way all the MPs have a stake in the success of the PM, and also have to take responsibility for his/her failures.

The problem obviously with Thaksin and TRT was that the party caucus was bought and paid for by Thaksin and his wife.

Remember the lady MP who voted against Thaksin one time (by accident supposedly) and the entire Thai Rak Thai caucus came down on her like a ton of bricks, and she had to endure weeks of humiliation for not towing the line.

Regardless, the problem is not the PM, elected or not elected, but the rest of the constitutional institutions that are supposed to check the powers of the executive.

I went back and read the constitution. If any of those folks running those institutions had been doing their jobs, they could have stopped many of Thaksin's excesses.

Thaksin may have exceeded his authority, but it was only because the Senate, the courts, the various commissions, and the public weren't doing their duties that were clearly enumerated in the constitution.

If Thaksin had bought everybody off as many have alleged, then that means the whole system is corruptible, and no constitution will be worth the paper its written on, regardless of who is in power.

fall said...

Where did opposition strike on 1997 constitution lead? A probable dissolution of their main rival party, exile of their arch-enemy, and most likely prospect of returning to run government. Not exactly a lose-lose choice for them, I would say.

Thai people tend to treat constitution just like disposable toilet paper. They(we) expect everything to be laid out and quix-fix by looking at the constitution. If they(we) continue to treat it so, then it value would remain so.

Say if next election comth and TRT manage to win 75% or parliament. There would likely be outcry by Dem and PAD(again). Now, the constitution permit outside PM and TRT pick Thaksin(assume he does not contest). Would Thai people(especially Bangkok) accept the choice? Or on the contrary,if Dem won and TRT stir a mob. And Dem choose Saprang to become PM, would he be acceptable?

I still think it would do more harm than good to have non-elect PM clause. Surely the idea look good on paper, but in the Thai-politic-cronyism-business-vested interest real world?

Fonzi said...


I think TRT or the new parties made up of former TRT politicians could win the next election--if the new constitution is not rigged against them or the military is not involved in vote counting.

The thing that barely has been talked about is that the Thaksin political infrastructure(the marketing data, the canvassers, the party rolls, the village leadership) is still in place. Thaksin may be gone, but the apparatus is still there.

The Democrats, Mahachon, whoever, don't have anything.

Their apparatuses are either old, unsophisticated and untested. Mahachon with the great General Sanan at the helm could barely win one seat with the old tried and trued methods of the 80s and 90s.

Is Sanoh Dingdong gonna make a come back as power broker?


Seriously doubt it.

They are old school.

And the Democrats seem to want to live out there existence as a permanent minority party because they are incapable of going directly to the people like Thaksin did, or even bothering to invest in a sophisticated campaign apparatus.

I think as long as TRT and former TRT politicians keep going back and directly appealing to the masses at a grass roots level, I think they will win.

Elections are not easy to win if the campaigns are run in a half assed way. And there is no evidence that the Dems have learned the lessons of good politicking yet. They don't seem to get that you can't win elections by coasting on empty words and pristine reputations.

Bangkok Pundit said...

Not that I make a habit to defend the Democrat Party, but I don't see them ending up in government with the junta.

First, they are too small. I can't see them winning more than a quarter of all seats. Chat Thai and a Matchima grouping is more likely.

I also don't share Hobby's optimism that an unelected MP will be a circuit breaker. It will have to be a General who is the PM in exchange for no military coup. So instead of a military coup to get the military to run the country, we just have a military PM to do so an an unelected person.

I am tight on time at the moment so this will likely be my only comment.

Fonzi said...


I just re-read Duncan McCargo's "Network Monarchy" piece again, so when I wrote my remarks originally I thought of the possibility of a Democrat led coalition backed by the Prem and junta.

In the back of my mind, I always have the death of the king, succession politics, and the coronation time frame as a piece of the puzzle. Death, funeral, coronation is a long time frame, probably 2-3 years, probably longer.

I don't see any other party other than the Democrats who will get the
military/Prem blessing.

I think one of the major reasons Thaksin was dumped was because the royalists/elites didn't want him messing around with post-death/ succession politics.

In terms of majority rule democracy, I agree that the Dems probably don't make the cut, but they have led other shaky coalition in the past before, so it can't ruled out.

hobby said...

Thanks BP, I'm not normally noted for my optimism.

I know it wont happen, but since the non elected PM issue was put on the table, why not use it as a way to end military coups.

Make it a feature of the constitution, and promote it to the electorate as the way to stop future coups.
Make it clear cut - no coups, fixed term elections, no anulling of elections, MP's sort it out, and if they cannot then the army cic becomes the PM after 90 days or so.
If protesters bring the country to a standstill, the MP's have the power and incentive to come up with a solution (and the protesters will know the consequences).

But really, any constitution will be worthless if the electorate would keep voting in a Thaksin after all that he has done & said, and what has happened.

fall said...

I also doubt that the Dem could beat TRT fair and square in an election. But from the look of thing, I doubt they are going to do it *fair and square*. The party dissolution case had been pedning too long. My guess is, the court would rule dissolution of TRT after 90 days deadline for re-registering MP are past. That would put stranded TRT MP in limbo, and the Dem would be back. This is just my speculation though.
But either way, TRT would most likely end up dissolved or broken into smaller faction.

Coup de'Tat was/is actually a high treason. But in every past coup, what they did was tearing up the constitution and get an amnesty for it. So, in my opinion, writing a un-tearable constitution in a country where nothing a royal amnesty cant cover is quite impractical.

So back at 75% majority, not that it is not a good idea. But there is just too much sinister scenerios to balance out the cost.