Pro-Thaksin party wins plurality in Thai elections; now what?

The long-awaited elections in Thailand to elect a new post-coup government have taken place, with the People’s Power Party, affiliated in all but name with Thaksin, making an impressive showing. The PPP won 232 of 480 seats and is presently seeking to form a government in coalition with smaller parties.

Assuming that effort eventually succeeds, the next question is how Thaksin will fare under the new government. He still insists he is retired from politics (but here’s a skeptical take on that claim),  but his informal (or semi-formal) influence will still be very substantial in a PPP-led government, in all likelihood. The big questions as I see it are as follows:

1. What will happen to the court cases against Thaksin, which the Democrat Party still wants to see prosecuted in full?

2. Is Thaksin really capable of returning to Thailand and (after the initial splash of publicity) keeping a low profile, refraining from over-obvious political activity?

3. What are Thaksin’s long-term aims? Does he simply want to get his name cleared, his money unfrozen, and his ability to business restored? Is he happy to see out his days as a patron of sport?

4. If he does clear his name and get his money back, will he maintain continued interest in owning Manchester City? (The guess here is yes, for the time being.)

5. Will the investigation into the 2003 war on drugs initiated by the military government proceed under the new government, or simply be pushed to the background?

Based on my reading of the Thai press post-election coverage (there are far too many articles and analyses out there to link here, but follow the standing links on the right to see what is being said), it seems that even anti-Thaksin folks can accept his return to Thailand as simply a private citizen, while even pro-Thaksin folks in the PPP believe he must stay out of politics for the foreseeable future, both for his own sake and to avoid endangering a still-fragile recovery from the coup.

Personally, I’m not displeased to see the PPP do well in the election; I’ve never denied that the PPP/TRT does a better job than any other large-scale Thai party of representing the interests of the Thai majority. What was problematic about Thaksin’s rule was not his strong support among the rural poor or the efforts his government made to address their needs, but the abuses of executive power that also characterized his rule, as well as the ultimately destructive political polarization Thaksin provoked. A PPP-led government that managed to attend to the needs of the poor while avoiding executive overreach and minimizing unnecessary antagonism of other sectors of society seems to me like the best achievable outcome at this stage of Thai history.

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5 Comments on “Pro-Thaksin party wins plurality in Thai elections; now what?”

  1. egalitarian Says:

    Glad to see you’re still following events over here, from my p.o.v

    1. Court cases will be whitewashed with PPP in charge. Thaksin now holds all the cards, he’s funding the PPP, has his nominees throughout the cabinet including the PM, the military top brass wouldn’t dare stage another coup, the man at the top has been humbled. It’s plain sailing for Thaksin from here on in and he’ll be back as PM within 2 years.

    2. Possibly avoiding overt politics for a while, but he’s puppet master.

    3. I expect his next term to include signing of FTAs with as many foreign governments as possible, nationalizing of public industry and further rampant profitering.

    4. Uncertain. Certainly he won’t be pumping mega-cash in.

    5. The war on drugs investigation never got going and will be swept under the rug. Just as Tai Bak, kidnappings and so on weren’t investigated. Too many ‘poo-yai’ would be involved and that’s not acceptable in Thai society. (Poo-yai are people of high social standing)

    The first moves of the new government are indications of what we have in store. The only good thing the post-coup government did was to issue licenses for cancer and aids drugs so they were more affordable, new government say it’s bad for business so prices will go through the roof again. Prime Minister denies massacre of students at university in the 1970s which he was a part of live on CNN in spite of overwhelming photographic and documentary evidence. Next day a radio host is removed by the government for questioning the PMs account of events. Just as Thaksin loved to do, the press will be neutered, ‘mega-projects’ will be back on the cards and the pigs will be having the meal of their lives from the trough.

  2. egalitarian Says:

    Update….

    Chief investigator investigating Thaksin’s alleged crimes removed from his position by new government.

    http://www.nationmultimedia.com/2008/02/26/politics/politics_30066520.php

    War on drugs part 2 authorised by new government

    http://www.nationmultimedia.com/2008/02/25/opinion/opinion_30066316.php

  3. Teth Says:

    1. Thaksin will NOT be completely whitewashed. The stability of Thai politics (and the seeming compromise struck between the generals and Thaksin else why the peaceful transition thus far) depends on the court cases being played out. Already, the anti-Thaksin forces are mobilizing for his return and the withdrawal of the corruption cases will be a major issue a la Shin Corp. Therefore, there will be no immediate or obvious whitewash of Thaksin. But do not expect justice or rule of law in Thailand, Thaksin will probably be slapped with a meagre conviction or if court cases drag out long enough people will simply forget about it.

    2. Thaksin is unable to keep a low profile. Witness the news storm about his return to Thailand that is happening right now.

    3. That is a very good question. He is either going back to clear his name, unfreeze his assets, or some plot to take over as an absolute dictator. Or somewhere in between.

    4. Thaksin is always acutely aware of criticism. I would not worry as a City fan because the moment he is faced with bad press, he will respond. Probably by throwing more money into the club or by meddling.

    5. Depending on the popularity of the government and the political situation in the country, the war on drugs will likely to proceed. A majority of Thais support extra-judicial killings. Even the junta’s government did not choose to prosecute Thaksin on this matter seeing as the King gave tacit approval. All it takes to turn the tide of public opinion are those human angle stories in the media that show innocents being killed by corrupt officials.

  4. egalitarian Says:

    An update on this, PPP are making no efforts at creating harmony, quite the opposite – they are dividing the country more than at any previous time with the brashness of the PM and his attempts to alter the constitution so that they don’t get dissolved for election fraud. Thaksin will be whitewashed if this doesn’t happn.


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