Thursday, November 8, 2007

The Nation: Campaign Kicks Off (The Nation's Political Reporting Does Not)


The Nation

The Nation pontifcates:

There is widespread concern that some of the parties, armed with formidable war chests, will resort to vote-buying to bankroll their way to the House of Representatives. Both the Election Commission and the interim Surayud government have pledged to do their best to prevent electoral fraud and ensure a free and fair election. The Election Commission is the leading agency organising the election, while the Surayud government is charged with providing security, logistical support and making sure that all government officials stay impartial and do nothing that can be construed as being biased in favour of or against certain parties.

Of course, The Nation doesn't believe the media has any role in covering the election.

Both the Election Commission and the government are faced with a tall order. Vote-buying tactics, which continue to be widespread in rural constituencies where people are poor, have evolved over the years. In the old days, canvassers simply handed out cash to eligible voters they wanted to persuade to vote for them. These days, cash can be transferred electronically to recipients over time, in instalments, to avoid arousing suspicion and detection by poll monitors.

No investigative reporting to actually verify if this is true.

It is already evident that the election will be contested between supporters of deposed prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra's now-defunct Thai Rak Thai Party and the political forces opposed to his five-and-a-half-year reign that ended when the military overthrew him in a bloodless coup in September last year. Battle lines have been drawn between two camps symmetrically opposed. Thaksin loyalists, who are contesting the election under a new party banner, can count on the support of the rural masses still enamoured by populist policies, while anti-Thaksin parties can depend on the urban middle-class to vote for them. But there are also some opportunistic parties - most of them created overnight by politicians with deep pockets - that are ready to latch on to whichever side emerges as the biggest winner next month.

1. More Manichean idiocy from The Nation, just repeating the same old angels versus devils analogy from the early nineties.

2. Here is The Nation's deep analysis with no basis in fact or research: The Isaan poor are greedy and stupid; the urban middle class are altruistic and well-informed. Of course, The Nation always seems to forget that there are poor and uneducated people who vote for the Democrats in the South. Or that there are poor and uneducated people who vote for Chart Thai.

3. The Nation will never do any investigative reporting that differentiates between those parties that are legitimate and those that are not. Will The Nation ever investigate the sources of campaign financing?

The election is being touted as an important turning point, after which Thailand is supposed to revert to full democracy following more than one year of military rule.But Thailand's future as a democratic society is far from assured unless the Election Commission and the interim government succeed in enlisting the support of fair-minded, democracy-loving people, particularly idealistic youths, to serve as election monitors and ensure a relatively clean election.

Notice that The Nation believes that everybody other than the media itself is responsible for monitoring elections. How about The Nation sending reporters out into the provinces to monitor, investigate and report? It is nice to get the youth involved in elections, but they are not trained to monitor polls. And the chances of a 20 year old kid with no power or protection standing up to a machine politician with infinite resources and a corrupt police force backing him are nil.

The Election Commission and the government must also make the best use of the less than two months between now and election day to educate the public about how democracy works.

The Nation fails Government 101 once again. It never ceases to amaze me how The Nation loves to pontificate about democracy when its editors know next to nothing about it.

People need to be taught quickly how to distinguish between the candidates. They need to be able to tell the difference between principled political parties, with responsible policies backed by realistic financing options, and unprincipled ones that have no qualms about bribing people for votes while promising instant gratification through populist policies, at the same time providing no clue as to where they are going to find the money to fund them.

Like I have said before, it is not the government's responsibility to brainwash the electorate into voting for people The Nation likes or hates. It is only the government's obligation to make sure an election adheres to the law and that is free and fair according to that law. The government should have no role in promoting a political agenda, especially The Nation's idiotic political agenda which has no regard for liberal democratic principles or political freedom.

And what makes The Nation even more idiotic and hypocritical is that as a journalistic entity it never bothers to do any of the things that it ignorantly believes the government should do to reign in corruption and vote-buying.

The Nation loves to say how every politician is a vote-buyer or corrupt(except the Democrats, of course), but never actually proves these allegations, which is what it should be doing instead of laying all the responsibility and blame for corrupt Thai politics at the feet of the government. If the editors knew anything about the role of a free press in democratic society, perhaps then they wouldn't be so ignorant, lazy and self-deluded. Even then, I doubt it.

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