Election result will not improve life for Thailand’s poor

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Thailand has a turbulent political history — it has seen 24 prime ministers and 18 coups

in the past 75 years. On 23 December 2007, voters again went to the polls but the result,

a strong vote for the People’s Power Party (PPP) that gave it the most seats but left it just

short of a majority, will not bring either the economic stability the divided bourgeoisie

craves nor meet the aspirations of Thai workers and the rural poor.

The election took place in a repressive atmosphere. The junta, in power since a coup in

2006 ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, deployed 200,000 soldiers and police

officers to maintain security. The vote took place under the junta’s new constitution, and

almost half the country was under martial law.

Little choice. The PPP was formed by supporters of Thaksin’s Thai Rak Thai (TRT)

party, which was dissolved by the military — its leaders banned from politics for five

years. Samak Sundaravej, a former Mayor of Bangkok who, in 1976, whipped up

reactionary mobs that stormed Thammasat University, leads the PPP. The party follows

in the traditions of TRT with a mix of nationalist economic policies to meet the needs of

a section of Thai business and populist offerings to its poor rural support base.

The Democratic Party, the other main contender, is the party favoured by the military.

A previous opponent of the military interference in Thai politics, it has lost much of its

credibility by its tacit backing of the 2006 coup. The recent election, like the coup before

it, will do little to improve the lot of the Thai majority.

All for show. The election was little more than a piece of window dressing for the

international community. The military retains immense power. It is pushing a new law

to entrench its role, allowing it to overrule civilian administration without the need to

formally declare a state of emergency. It is time to break the cycle of coups and weak

elected governments. Thai workers and peasants must look to their own ranks for

solutions — the parade of business leaders and generals is just a march to disaster.

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