ASIA NEWS NETWORK
WE KNOW ASIA BETTER
With no clear reform plan, suspending Thai polls would be futile
Publication Date : 19-12-2013
By now, all segments of Thai society definitely agree that political reform is inevitable - because there's no denying that elections alone cannot solve the political conflicts that have existed for a long time. If nothing is done, a new government would always face protests from the other side.
Although all agree that reform must be achieved, disputes are ongoing as to whether the February 2 election should be postponed and the reform held first, or not.
Both sides still have wide differences in their stands on reform. In particular, the Pheu Thai Party and the caretaker government see that change must be carried out along with the election.
However, the People's Democratic Reform Committee has insisted that the reform must be done first. The PDRC claimed the election could not be held yet and a "People's Council", whose model has been proposed by the PDRC, must be formed to carry out the reform.
The PDRC has demanded the election be suspended for about one-and-a-half years for the reform process to be conducted to its full extent. The proposal prompted ridicule, with critics alleging that the PDRC was seeking to suspend Thailand's democracy.
By now, political reform proposals are coming from several sectors and each forum appears to have a very high estimation of its own worth. There has been no sign the proposals could be coordinated into one acceptable to all sides.
The forums include one sanctioned by the government, one representing a group of the seven major business organisations, one held by the military, and the PDRC-sanctioned forum. So far, none has managed to iron out differences, and eliminate the cons and synchronise the pros, of all forums. Worse still, no scheme is in sight that could eliminate the differences and join the proposals into one.
It is undeniable that the proposal of the PDRC is the most extreme, because the interim administration that would carry out the reform would need to be proposed by the PDRC itself. Of course, it would be hard for the other side to accept the members of an interim administration selected by the PDRC, and it would be difficult for them to win legitimacy to carry out the reform. Worse still, 18 months is too long a period to delay the election. The country could be damaged, while the international community would be unlikely to accept the interim administration.
An election delay could work if all sides agree to it and if it is not delayed for too long. Most of all, before the election is postponed, there should be first a clear-cut form of reform and details on how it would be done and by whom.
If the current vague proposals were presented to push the country's politics into a vacuum state, suspending the election would be futile. Worse still, it would lead to more severe rifts in society, which could lead to clashes between people of both sides.
Without reform, the election would be futile. But without a clear-cut plan of reform, the postponement of the election could be futile as well.
Without a clear-cut reform proposal that is acceptable to all sides, it would be better to hold an election with political parties proposing their ideas on reform for voters to select.
Moreover, political parties must establish a social contract in which they agree to allow the next government to carry out political reform. The next government must also be ready to face public pressure should it break the reform promise.