Does it include Thaksin Shinawatra as prime minister?
The caretaker prime minister went on TV tonight, declaring that his Thai Rak Thai party had won a majority of the party list votes – 16.1 million votes compared to the estimated 10 million absentations and minor party votes. “Sixty percent of the people have placed their trust in me,” Mr Thaksin stated.
[I still can’t confirm this figure independently – ITV had reported earlier TRT only had 44.4% of the valid votes cast. The EC cannot confirm the results, at the time of this post. Mr Thaksin seems to want to get a chance to claim victory first, before anti-Thaksin groups can question further the integrity of the election. First mover’s advantage.]
Once me made it clear that he’s passed the self-imposed hurdle of 50% and repeated talking points about the legimitimacy of his decision to call for a dissolution of parliament and of the election itself, the host prompted him on how he would actually translate his mandate into action. Mr Thaksin’s response was to outline two major themes – national reconciliation and constitutional reform. There were so many proposals that I am still not sure if I got everything down.
A Bid for Peace?
Thaksin launched into two separate appeals for national unity here, perhaps influenced by the ‘dove’ faction of his advisors.
In the first proposal, a committee will be established consisting of three former prime ministers, three former speakers of parliament and three former supreme court judges (with former rectors of state universities as well?). This ‘3×3’ committee is tasked with bring all parties in the current political stalemate together, airing out their demands and find a compromise way out of the current crisis. If they decide the way out will necessary need to exclude Mr Thaksin from the new government, he says he will accept their decision.
In a second and I guess separate proposal, Mr Thaksin appealed directly to the PAD leaders and the former opposition parties. Stop your protests, call off your election boycott, make Thailand at peace and I take a break from politics. But of course, Mr Thaksin says it’s still his decision to decide to return to politics at a later date.
My take on these two proposals is that so many contraints have been put on them that they are likely to fail. Citing the constitution, Mr Thaksin rules out any chance of a truely neutral person (royally-appointed or not) to become prime minister because of the constitutional provision that the PM needs to be a sitting MP. This leaves the field open to only to TRT party members (ok, one exception) – something the PAD will not likely accept. The committee proposal faces an uphill task, just P-NET and the university rectors group before, of finding a concensus between the three parties with the inevitable delays about the selection of the committee members and the format of the hearings.
Government of National Unity: Foward with Political Reform
In parallel, Mr Thaksin proposes that TRT, as the sole force in parliament, be the core of the new government. This government’s focus will be paving way for constitutional reforms (reforms here being what Ajarn Nidhi calls “คำขวัญกลวงๆ” – a hollow slogan that all people support, but so far has little substance.) Again Mr Thaksin says his being prime minister is optional.
Mr Thaksin tries to add legitimacy and some sense of national unity to this new government in three ways. The first method is to offer cabinet positions the former opposition parties, academics and civil society groups (or the people’s movement). The second is to put the reformist agenda on top and modify section 131 of the constitution to make way for ‘neutral’ people to be the ones in charge of the charter amendments.
The last and perhaps the most wishy-washy concession is a promise to make this new government more transparent by, for example, allowing journalists to be present in bids for the more valuable government procurement contracts. I really found the assertion that his government is doing enough to combat corruption ridiculous and even more embarassing the fact that he passes the buck to the NCCC, which he calls a constitutional check and balance that’s already working great.
I have to note that, although he says he’s open to all investigations into all the allegations made by his opponents, he still is not taking the conflict of interests issues seriously. Mr Thaksin insists he has no more conflicts since his family already sold all Shin Corp shares. As I said before, he should ask his family to sell holdings in SC Assets – there’s absolutely no excuse now.
For a man appealing for reconcilliation, Thaksin did sound pretty divisive at times. I’ll blog more about it later, definately did not sound good in presenting the rural/urban divide in the electorate, among several other things.
The PAD is totally shut out in this scenario. Thaksin will count on them being isolated as the only ones not co-opted into his new deal and therefore losing a lot of popular support. He hints at using legal means, I guess something like more strictly enforcing traffic ordinances, and even the use of force (as the last, last resort) to undermine the demonstrations.
The former opposition parties, especially Banharn’s Chart Thai, are going to be more open-minded and perhaps be willing to negotiate and come to an agreement if they get the right concessions. The Democrats will need to choose wisely and keep the long term goal of the next election in mind. The ball is in their court now, as the saying goes.