Democrat dissolution case court verdict

A lot have been said about the recent decision to drop the case against Democrats in 29 mil fund case. The details are confusing, I don’t see any hope in trying to reconstruct the whole case as it happened, and it won’t matter anyway as people have already made their minds regardless of the “truth”. Many have made their minds long before the verdict.

What is missing in the ongoing public debate, however, is a look at the big picture.

First of all, the court is made of people, and people are social entities, they cannot be absolutely impartial and they cannot totally ignore attempts at pressuring them.

Ten years ago, in Thaksin hidden funds case, hardly anyone was surprised at the court decision. Many were disappointed that the court didn’t show as much heroism as they expected but anyone who has ever lived here knows very well that everyone has his limits, and I don’t know anyone who is ready to be a hero to the end, despite threats and/or enticements. Everyone bends to pressure. Fact of life.

What happened in Democrat case was a backlash against an attempt to bend the court again. After a barrage of video clips implicating court members in some nefarious activities, the court just snapped. People who tried to manipulate the court this way, or cheered the release of each new video, shouldn’t be surprised that judges didn’t interpret technicalities in their favor and they’ve lost the moral right to complain of prejudice, double standards etc.

The case itself was ridiculous from the start, nothing but a fertile ground for propaganda warriors. Ask anyone – what exactly have Democrats done wrong? All you get is vague references to “corruption”.

A couple of days before the verdict The Nation printed a graphic with details of prosecution charges. The ones that made most sense were “Dems printed their posters one inch shorter than specified”, “Dems used posters for local candidates campaign instead of advertising their party policies” and “Dems spent money in 2004 for 2005 elections”. Yeah, right, “2005” elections means third week in January and the campaign officially started months before that – prosecution was just being anal. And that’s basically all Democrats were accused of.

This ugly case had met its ugly end and that’s all there is to it.

It wasn’t the courts most memorable moment, true, and months have been wasted on questioning the witnesses, but, perhaps, the decision to end it fast was made only recently, when youtube clips started leaking out and when the prosecution hand was fully revealed – they were never out seeking justice, it was a dirty political war.

Technically it was the EC that filed the charge but everyone knows PTP was the one on the attack there.

As for the EC itself – they’ve made quite a mess out of it, but why waste time picking on the details without taking into consideration red mob that broke into EC premises and threatened the lives of the commissioners? That “little detail” is hardly ever mentioned nowadays.

Did the EC try to dupe the reds to get off their backs, in full knowledge that the case won’t go anywhere? Did they, or Apichart, know about 15 day deadline that had long passed?

Doesn’t matter anymore. Reds tried to get their way by force and it didn’t work. Now let EC sort it out itself – no one else was in their meetings, we are in no position to guess the internal dynamics of their decision making processes at that time.

In the end both the Constitution Court and the EC have “compromised” themselves, as one side put it, or proved themselves human, as I, personally, believe.

I also believe that the popular “destroying institutions” crusade is juvenile at best. Grow up, will you? People need to trust something or someone. You destroy one thing and it will be replaced with another in no time. Such is the nature of human society.

And for the rest of us the lesson is – be careful with pressuring courts, the EC, the military etc. Public institutions do not perform well under pressure, and it won’t even matter if you succeed and for the righteous cause or not, there will always be a bitter taste of manipulation left in someone’s mouth, and if you destroy them you get nothing at all, just ruins.

Catching up

It is somehow extremely difficult to resume blogging after a long break, and everybody needed a break after the intensity of April-May rallies.

Nothing seems worth writing about in comparison and certainly not worth spending several hundreds words on.

Still, life is going on, so let me sum up what has happened in the past couple of months.

Bangkok by-election

PTP has chosen a jailed candidate, then, as expected, its fan club started whining about how Korkaew was at a disadvantage. It doesn’t make any sense, of course, but being red is not about sense, it’s about making noise.

During the campaign itself PTP was a lot more visible on the road, they had more trucks, more people, more posters, louder music and so on.

I’ve heard of a woman who is registered in one of the new moobans in that constituency but lives mostly downtown, she was dragged to vote by her family but was not very interested herself. She drove to the polling station, got in a booth, and realized she doesn’t know what number to vote for. Once you are in there, there are no names and parties, only numbers, so she tried to remember and the first number that came to her was “4”, the biggest, most visible, red on white number that she saw most often, so she ticked it. Then, still in the booth, she asked her sister if she made the right choice (Dem). She changed her choice but I think it resulted in a spoiled ballot in the end.

This is a perfect example of how factors other than political ideology can influence voters’ decisions, easily.

The result itself presents quite a few explanations. On one hand it looks like both Reds and Dem supporters remain politicized active and they came out in masses – the drop in vote count for both parties was less than 10% comparing to 2007, that means that people who voted for other parties in 2007 couldn’t be bothered this time around, letting Dems and PTP to slug it out and causing a very low turnout overall.

Another explanation could be that voters across the spectrum were equally apathetic and it’s a mere coincidence that both PTP and Dem tallies were close to 2007 numbers, in this case both parties picked up a lot of third choice voters. From Dems’ perspective it’s the worst case scenario – PTP were not expected to draw any new blood into its ranks.

Third explanation is that PTP rallied its troops and nobody else while Dems were trying to appeal to everyone who is non-red, including tens of thousands of people who didn’t vote for them last time, people who had a long weekend and less interest in supporting the government no matter what. Dems won, but not by a huge margin.

Bottom line – no party can say that it lost and both have good reasons to be hopeful when the general elections finally come.

Personally, I think PTP squeezed as much as it could and no red supporter skipped the voting, means they command only about 30% of the vote and would need not only to beat the Dems but also woo coalition partners away from them. Personally I think it won’t work, not on the red agenda.

Election preparations

It looks like Abhisit will call the elections in the first half of next year, parties are switching to election mood already. Bangkok is peppered with advertising for city council elections, I believe, and, for the first time, there’s a lot of New Politics posters everywhere. Bangkok is not Thailand but it’s the first testing ground for every party involved.

Elsewhere PTP is expelling a few rebel MPs with a few more said to be leaving for BJT. Come election time there could be a lot more defections if PTP can’t stop the bleeding. For months their North Eeastern MPs were complaining about how the party is run, particularly about Shinawatra clan members who are in charge. In the capital the rift between Chalerm and Sudarat has been reported many times over, and now they think about Mingkwan as the PM candidate. That won’t go well with Chalerm, too.

Mingkwan has zero appeal outside the party, he has been around for a long time now but has never achieved anything substantial. I remember his promise in 2007 to increase Thailand’s income from tourism four times. Can’t figure out how – four times more tourists, or making them spend four times more? Doesn’t matter, he is first class bullshitter, he doesn’t claim to have any connection to reality anyway.

“Third choice” parties are also preparing themselves. They realize they are too small to make any impact and need to join hands to get noticed by the electorate. Ideally they want to be the deal breakers, position now enjoyed by BJT and Chart Thai. BJT will probably be more successful, though, at the expense of Isan MPs from PTP and possibly some factions from Chart Thai itself.

Democrats will go with Abhisit, easily the best and most acceptable candidate in non-red eyes. They can’t go wrong with him, despite all the accusations.

Democrat Party Dissolution

Dissolution threat is like a swing. One day it looks like Dems are done, the next day it looks like they are off the hook. There are two cases here, one is about misusing official EC funds, another about illegal donation by Prachai of TPP fame.

Back in 2004 Prachai was hunted by Thaksin and it’s very likely that he turned to Democrats for political support. It is also very likely that he contributed to their campaign, too. Legally, however, the case is very shaky, for the lack of proof. DSI has dropped the case against TPP itself, ie no money has gone missing, so it would be more difficult to argue that Dems have “stolen” it.

The witnesses have changed their minds, too, or have been made to change their minds, doesn’t really matter. I find the whole idea of prosecuting the party for offenses three elections and five years ago and under different management an abuse of the system. The only plausible reason is that when Abhisit became the party leader he had signed off the financial statements for the previous year, too, that makes him legally responsible and prosecutable even though he had nothing to do with it. No one cares about the rest of the Democrat team at that time.

There’s one very important point – the laws have been changed since 2004, it will be very tricky to prosecute Dems and impose penalties based on laws that didn’t exist at the time of the offense, and I don’t know how they are going to apply old lawbooks either. At this time finding one party executive guilty means disqualifying the whole board and dissolution, no leeway. That was not the case back then and I have no idea how the courts are going to solve this dilemma. The case could be just thrown out of the court.

The misuse of EC funds is even more ridiculous – Democrats are accused of printing posters that were one inch SHORTER than regulation. Now idiots like Chaturon insist the whole party must be dissolved. He, of course, doesn’t say the Democrat party must be dissolved for printing smaller posters, he just wants them dissolved, period. His main reason is that if TRT were caught cheating every other party must suffer, too. And he is referred to as the intelligent one in the opposition camp.

I can’t imagine how his brand of “rule of law” will develop should this poster boy for “progressives” ever lay his hands on power.

Thaksin, his shyster and red future

I mean, of course, Robert Amserdam. The man keeps plugging his stuff anywhere he can. He finally produced the “white paper” that has become quite a matter of contention when Somtow was asked to respond to it.

Lots of people, me included, dismiss all his efforts outright and think that his works are just mountains of garbage and are not worth wasting any time on. His point, however, is to try and engage the public in a debate at any cost. Get a foot in the door, then you can start extracting concessions.

Somtow saw it right through, The Nation got caught for a second and posted both of them on the same front page, giving Amsterdam the publicity he so badly needs. That was one off, though, they are not going to engage Amsterdam any more, I think.

I haven’t read the white paper itself but I’ve read enough of Amsterdam’s to see that the man has absolutely no consciousness and no moral or ethical constraints when it comes to manipulating the facts.

Once he accused Abhisit of personal and groundless attacks on him when, in fact, Abhisit hasn’t said a word at all. The accusation could have been, if stretched to the limit, applied to Abhisit spokesman but Amsterdam put it into Huffington Post anyway, with “supporting evidence” being an untranslated page from a Thai newspaper. No shame in misleading unsuspected readers whatsoever.

In the “white paper” itself the first paragraph states that the coup overthrew an elected Prime Minister and that TRT had won 2006 elections. I can see where he is coming from but this is just plain untrue. Thaksin wasn’t elected, he lost the status when he dismissed the parliament, he was merely an interim PM, and no one won 2006 elections, there were annulled before they were even completed.

It’s just garbage.

There’s no benefit in dissecting the whole paper, as long as he remains on Thaksin’s payroll no one would pay any attention to what he says, no matter how many times he issues his trademark “Let me be clear on this” denial. As a total newbie to Thailand Amsterdam doesn’t realize what declaring yourself as someone’s proxy does to one’s strength and arguments. Samak could pull it off, Amsterdam has no chance. No one in Thailand would ever listen to him, which makes me question the wisdom of hiring him in the first place.

He has never had a shot at influencing domestic opinions and internationally no one pays attention to Thailand anymore, one paper or one article or even one editorial here and there won’t persuade anyone, international opinion makers on this country are spread too far and between and are not going to be swayed by his paid presentations, and it’s them who’ll set the tone next time Thailand gets in the spotlight.

There’s simply no market for his crap.

Meanwhile, Jakrapob is hinting that Thaksin himself is reconsidering his strategy of trying to defeat the whole country. Thaksin’s a bit of a slow learner in that respect.

While Somtow claims Thaksin can be easily forgiven if he shows enough remorse I somehow doubt that now, not after all that has happened, and paying Amsterdam’s is not helping here at all.

Avatar change

I’ve watched Uncle Boonmee a couple of weeks ago. Absolutely delightful.

The only spoilers were a few “movie experts” who were clapping hands and laughing at “jokes” in the most inappropriate moments. I see how lots of people would try to “understand” the movie and express their “success” with emotional outbursts, but, come on, it’s not your traditional Hollywood/Channel 7 storyline, things do not follow each other in a simple, logical progression there.

Yet they are all inexplicably connected, affecting and complementing each other in a myriad different ways. It would take days to try and explain what exactly the connections are, what the background for each scene and dialogue is, which part are new and original by local standards and which parts are totally conventional.

So, when the “experts” clapped hands at calling Bangkok a “City from Hell” I hope it’s not out of joke appreciation, I hope they at least understood Thai word play here – “maha nakorn” vs “maha narok”. That is an example of a totally conventional, stale joke and a widely held view. Everyone here has heard this kind of joke at least ten times in their lives., nothing to get excited about. The Bangkok woman in the movie hardly reacted at all, and that’s how most Thai would react, too. It “works” only on the uninitiated.

In the end I walked out convinced that foreigners who claim that there’s nothing special about Thailand and dismiss any “you don’t understand this country” arguments out of hand have no idea how really complex and intricate Thai society is.

Is he movie red or yellow? What a daft question! That’s a totally alien, artificial juxtaposition. Not only in the movie, but in the society in general.

In the end I thought that monkey ghost from the movie was pretty cool so I changed my avatar here. In case you haven’t seen the movie, it’s a mysterious ghost that quietly flows through the whole story, at one point luring an enthusiastic photographer to abandon civilization, marry a monkey woman, and go live in the jungle.

Don’t know what we have in common but the image is visually stunning.

Battle of attrition drags on

It’s somewhat depressing to try and resume blogging on this stalemate. Daily developments are too trivial and nothing seems to be worth mentioning.

Last night the CAPO guy promised some action when he announced new rules of engagement – no more pushing and shoving, the only physical contact will be with bullets, be they rubber or live. Interesting, I thought, that would certainly reduce injuries from hand to hand combat with batons and assorted red weaponry, like sharpened bamboo sticks.

Another day has passed with nothing happening, however, except “lak si”, multi colored shirt movement is gaining strength:

Lak Si at Wong Wian

If it goes like this, and PAD’s deadline expires and genuine yellows join in, we’ll soon have a far bigger crowd demonstrating against red demonstration for democracy.

Lak Si leaders promised 100,000 this weekend, a tall order but still a lot of people.

The army and the government have very little time left to mount a red dispersal operation, until the end of the week at most, before the hell breaks loose and everybody, and I mean everybody you can think of, starts blaming them for incompetency and inefficiency.

Electorally speaking, perhaps it would be wiser for Abhisit to cut losses and dissolve the parliament now than clearly and irrevocably prove that he can’t be trusted with protecting the country. He could still fire Anupong, though, and buy himself another week, but one way or another, sooner or later, he should face his red demons. That is simply unavoidable.

Would it mean a civil war? Quite possibly, as Anupong admitted that there will be pockets of resistance throughout the country even if they successfully manage to finish Rajprasong occupation.

Should the government back off to preserve the peace? It could try, but reds want war, not peace. They don’t want to deal with anybody, they want only total capitulation, which is unacceptable to the rest of the country.

If there is going to be civil war, now is the best time, not after reds assumed power and tipped the balance of political and military power to their side. Opposition to their rule would be massive and if the civil war breaks out then, it would be far bloodier and more brutal than now, when all they have to fight with is bamboo sticks and molotov cocktails.

I’m saying that appeasing them now would only make them bolder and stronger and more difficult to deal with later, and that time will inevitably come, first, perhaps, in the form of renewed yellow anti-protest protest next week.

So, the government has no other choice but to physically subdue the reds now, when the whole country demands it to, however difficult it might be.

Oh, and questions about legitimacy of reds as a democratic movement were answered weeks ago, when they broke into and disrupted the work of the government and parliament and Election Commission and “rescued” Arisman from inept cops.

They do not abide by country’s laws anymore, they have to be dealt with accordingly, as outlaws, not as people with grievances making their voice heard. That show is over, now they are already at war with the government, according to Arisman, or threaten the government with civil war, as Weng did the other day.

Abhisit should surely address their grievances and engage in more talks and negotiations, but in tandem with dispersing the protest at Rajprasong and detaining the leaders with outstanding arrest warrants.

Red leaders themselves got into a dead end situation. They have no place to go but to jail, or to war. In case of the war they might be sacrificed by their own “ronins” to try an raise red anger throughout the country.

The only way out for them is a creation of a new Thai state, overwriting the existing laws and throwing away court decisions – ie victory in a civil war, or a red people coup or whatever they would call it. Good luck with that, kids.

They listened only to themselves for too long to believe that they country would allows itself to be overrun by bamboo stick revolutionaries.

The only thing keeping them alive is that their enemies are humane enough not to go out and grant them the wish of “dying for democracy”. These self-proclaimed “prais” don’t value their lives as much as their “ammart masters” who, in turn, have to endure daily admonitions for being bloodthirsty from people they adamantly refuse to harm.

The time will have to come, however, if not now than in a couple of months time or before the end of the year – reds WILL be confronted, it’s inevitable.

As I type this, another red-laksi confrontation is heating up at Silom. So far it’s only shouting, but it’s not even weekend yet.

Democrat dissolution or “double standards” again?

The Election Commission made a sudden move and announced that they voted 4-1 to recommend dissolving the Democrat party.

Not a lot of details are available at the moment so this is just a small conspiracy theory from me.

The elites have done it again – used the judiciary power to solve the political stalemate, hoping that reds might declare a victory and tone down their protest just like yellows did in 2008.

The “double standard” is that they might know the case is not going anywhere and their today’s decision does not mean anything.

It has to pass through the Attorney General’s Office first where it could be sent back for further investigations or consultations, then it would be passed on to the Constitutional Court. That alone could easily take half a year, and then Democrats might successfully defend themselves and it would all be for nothing.

If reds indeed decide to call it a day, they would be duped.

As for the case itself, with the available information I can’t imagine how the whole Democrat party can possibly be dissolved. So far there have been no links between the party executives and the alleged donations. I would readily agree that the money indeed was meant for electoral campaign but it didn’t go through Democrat’s official books or any kind of central authorities. It all went to the relatives of selected individual MPs.

So far there’s no evidence that party executives knew anything about the donations at all, especially the current party leadership – the secretary-general who was supposed to be responsible for these things is with another party now and the then party leader has long resigned, too.

Read the details on Bangkok Pundit, that’s the best account I’ve ever seen.

Apart from that – what law exactly they would apply in this case? Think of it for a second – the electoral law that was in place in 2004-2005 does not exist anymore. Last time it was applied was to TRT dissolution case, under the interim constitution that went out of the way to keep it in place after the coup.

PPP was tried for offenses committed when laws stemming from 2007 constitution were firmly in place, and they are stricter than the previous version. They can possibly frame the charges as offenses valid under previous laws, but how can they decide on punishment? Current law has no leeway on involvement of party executives, for example, dissolution only. When the alleged offenses were committed, on the other hand, that wasn’t the case at all.

What about the statue of limitations for electoral offenses? We are talking five years, a coup, three elections and five governments ago, under the leadership that is not there anymore! What about people who are executives now but weren’t then?

It would be interesting too see how the EC presents the case. until then we can only speculate.

Back to the conspiracy – reds are being told that Democrats are finished and they can go home, only to find out a few months later that it was all just talk.

I don’t think they will buy it, though.

Bits and pieces

Some things that caught my attention, not in a particular order.

Red ideologists

From Pravit’s interview with a red cyber warrior on Prachatai. This cyber warrior is described as “Luke Chao Na Thai” or “Thai Peasant’s Son”, an influential red-shirt intellectual whose articles under the pen name is widely followed by many middle-class red shirts. “Luke Chao Na Thai” was educated in Thailand and England. He is a bureaucrat in his mid forties who kept his real identity secret due to his bureaucratic status.”

Right now, the society is already divided into red and yellow. There are no more non-partisan people left. Why should we care for yellow shirts since they…

That is straight from horse’s mouth – any non-red is yellow, and we don’t care about them. Enough said.

And another quote:

If they abandon [Thaksin] their power will diminish by 60 per cent.

I always thought exactly the same thing – red ideologists have zero credibility on their own, without Thaksin’s fans they’d have zero following, yet they boast of speaking for the majority.

Weasels and jackals, that’s what first comes to mind. They want Thaksin to win his war, destroy his opponents, so that they can come and declare a victory for themselves. Hyenas is another fitting animal.

Luke Chao Na wasn’t speaking of himself there, btw, he was speaking of middle class reds with socialist thinking, and he gave some names, too – Ji Ungpakorn and Dr Weng.

I hope there are some “reds” who really want to ditch Thaksin and fight on the strength of their own convictions but it’s been three years already, without Thaksin they remain unknown and unheard of.

PTP pitches in

PTP has called for House dissolution, too. That must put more pressure on Abhisit, though it’s not clear yet if these calls are genuine. First it was Chavalit’s initiative, then their paper leader, Wichaidit, came with the call of his own. It might get traction within the party ranks, it might not. Neither of these two mean very much in PTP power pyramid.

Income growth

Saw this article about Thailand’s income gap on Bangkok Post. The link won’t stay for very long, even the image link might get eventually broken.

The key point is that TRT and its populist policies are not the solution to poverty at all. Look at the numbers, from 1995 to 2006:

Income growth 1995-2006

People on the Eastern Seaboard had 125% growth, more than a double of that for Isan, and people in non-TRT areas, South and Central, still grew faster. North made good gains but from a much lower baseline.

Look at the difference between Isan and the East, 36k per year comparing to 290k! No amount of easy loans or 30 baht health-care can ever breach this gap. Never.

What they need is actual broad based development, guided and guaranteed by the state.

Or how about this message to Isanese themselves – if you had voted for Democrats all these years you could have made three times more money than now, everybody else did, but you stuck with Thaksin instead and so remain hopelessly poor.

Red reception

Right now reds are still on high from their Saturday show, but what they might overlook is that they all they saw was only a bunch of reds. It was “if a you don’t go to a rally, then the rally comes to you” moment, but the reception among the general population remains unknown.

People are not hostile, largely indifferent, imo, but that might change to being annoyed if reds keep going on like that, and they plan to. So far Bangokians let reds express themselves to their satisfaction but, I suspect, the perception gap only keeps growing, with moderates failing to give their approval to the red cause while reds celebrating like they’ve already won the elections.

Another point that is forgotten by the media – exactly a year ago reds were a bunch of merry men, too. They kept singing and dancing through the first days of Songkran and they were largely tolerated, just like now. They overestimated their support, or rather mistook tolerance for blessings.

It seems they are making the same mistake again.

Image boosters – Democrats vs PTP

The Banker magazine gives Finance Minister of the Year award to Democrat’s Korn.

They list a lot of his achievements during last year and praise him for having visions and instituting reforms and so on.

He must be doing something right.

PTP, on the other hand, had a panel discussion at a hotel with Thaksin speaking via video link. What is unusual, though, is that the meeting was organized by a group of young people from hi-so families which joined PTP last year.

That’s just what PTP needs in addition to a collection of retired generals – hi-so children. I can’t think of any more inappropriate group to join this “party for the poor”. They already have Chalerm, now they are getting his children, too? Did they sign up Kanpitak, beauty queen son who mowed a poor woman with his Benz at a bus stop because he was angry?

To be fair, the hi-so kids are mentioned only in the paper Nation, no sign of them anywhere in the Internet edition and nothing about them on Bangkok Post website either.

They are mentioned twice on the front page, though, in a caption under the photo from the meeting and in a short column on Thaksin’s latest speech.

Perhaps The Nation’s journos covering the event got his facts wrong and Nation was forced to take it down from their website. Pity, could have been a great story.

They could have been sponsors, not organizers, or maybe they could have been participants, or maybe they were guests and it’s not them but their families that joined PTP last year – the wording is confusing.

Let’s see if it becomes clearer in the coming days.

Constituency battles

So Democrats decided not to sponsor constituency size amendments but it’s not clear what is their stand on article 190 about foreign agreements yet.

Amending that article makes sense as there was a lot of discomfort at the Foreign ministry after Noppadon’s deal with Cambodia was ruled unconstitutional. On the other hand, it’s Democrats who control Foreign Ministry now and if they don’t think the article 190 makes it inconvenient, how’s that any of Banharn’s business? His party will never get the foreign ministry portfolio, what’s it to him?

Multi/singe constituency is trickier and it goes to the heart of what do they need parliamentarians for in the first place, what are their duties, who they represent and so on, then two systems need to be considered relative to each other and expected results.

Originally the country was carved into 400 constituencies, and I suspect no one remembers them all. People know 76 provinces and they address each MP as such and such from this or that province. People never relate to them as representatives of their minuscule geographical areas, so, from the national assembly point of view, those small constituencies practically don’t exist.

It was different on the local level, smaller constituencies meant the MPs knew everybody in their areas, or everybody important. One MP per constituency also meant “winner takes all”, and competition was fierce. Naturally candidates tried to be as close to the voters as possible, and while it is probably a good thing, it also means that people made their voting decisions on matters that have nothing to do with their jobs at the national assembly at all. When campaigns are localized, national agendas fade into the background. Not to mention that it’s easier to buy votes in smaller places, either by paying money or giving out rice bags or t-shirts or holding free food political rallies and so on.

2007 constitution brought in larger, multi seat constituencies. Candidates had a lot more ground to cover, they needed to appeal to broader spectrum of population and present broader issues, relevant to larger areas and larger groups. In a way it brought their electoral agendas closer to national issues, though the gap is still too big, I think. It’s also not easy to buy votes in large areas, you need more money and it’s more difficult to keep track of it all. Local poo yais and village had less persuasive power, too. You needed to show something more than just “everybody on that side of the river knows me”. Candidates had to have bigger profile, larger caliber.

Multi-seat also means that three candidates with highest number of votes are winners, and where some area was totally under one party control even if they had only 1% majority, now it has a possibility of being shared, giving better representation vis-a-vi voter proportions.

Personally I think it’s not a bad idea to have ALL candidates run on their national platform, not on local issues. Neither the government nor the parliament have any regional structures, they have committees and ministries based on industries or social issues, never on local ones. New politics proposal addresses this perfectly – if you want to be on the House Industrial Policies committee you should be elected by industrialists, not by some Ban Nok residents who have no idea what you are supposed to do there and want a new klong in their neighborhood instead, but that’s for another post.

Anyway, smaller parties have better chances under one-seat system, they don’t have resources to fight on a bigger scale, and being close to voters is their strong suit. They have build themselves on being close to their people and they have always provided for them, leaving their legislating duties to big boys in parliament.

Big boys, on their end, are busy with their big pictures, they want to leave local issues to local governments, Tamboon and Provincial Administrations, which are elected nowadays, and they should be the ones who to handle local issues, not MPs.

Apart from being a deadwood in parliament, big boys think that those small parties who win their cabinet quota don’t have qualified candidates to fill them. They appoint a nurse as a Commerce Minister and a retired teacher as a Deputy Health Minister – jobs way over their heads.

So now Democrats decided to stay with larger, multi-seat constituencies, and it must be noted that it was a decision by their executive board, not by the body of their MPs who had to fight it out on the ground and probably didn’t like large area campaigns very much. Anyway, they had a meeting and they delegated the decision to the executives, so that’s it.

Now it’s Phue Thai’s turn to make up their minds and they have exactly the same concerns as Democrats – they are being challenged by break away TRT factions that have excellent on the ground support while they have the legacy of running on attractive national policies, health care for all and so on that are not as attractive anymore as everybody offers the same national platform.

It would be interesting to see how it goes. They might support the amendment for now to get to the Democrats but regret it or even back off later.