Support for democracy slim if politicians are corrupt
What kind of political system does Thailand have? The question is deceptively simple but the real answer is not.
Thais should stop pretending that we have a clear consensus on what political system we want. Some want electoral democracy, while others want unelected rules via a "benign" elite installed through military coups or other means without widespread public participation.
This, ironically, helps explain why some people went out of their way to offer roses to soldiers who staged the coup in 2006, and then rewrote the |constitution - and why some are now seeking to prevent Parliament re-writing the charter.
The whole mess has little to do with the Constitution and much to do with the love for and loathing of ousted fugitive former PM Thaksin Shinawatra, and fears that if the charter is amended, Thaksin will return home a free and innocent man.
The lack of a society-wide consensus about the country's political system is best reflected in the fact that political rule has swung like a pendulum between that of military dictatorships (or junta-appoint governments) to elected governments.
Basically, many of the so-called |educated and well-to-do Thais still believe that elections are only legitimate as long as their desired political party wins, and that a military coup is acceptable as long as it rids the Kingdom of undesirable politicians. Many less-to-do and less-educated Thais feel that their vote should count - no matter how flawed their elected and winning party may be perceived in the eyes of others.
That is why every dozen years or so, Thailand has a coup, a military regime or a military-appointed regime, then elected government, then another coup - a seemingly never-ending pendulum that swings from elected to unelected governments.
Thai society also has no uniform consensus on issues like the lese majeste law, and even the one-sided positive-only news and information disseminated through the mainstream media about the monarchy institution has failed to keep the lid on growing calls to have the law amended, or abolished.
Eighty years ago, when a revolt took place to end the absolute monarchy and introduce a constitutional monarchy, it was led and enforced by a small group of people, without society-wide deliberation or consensus. Today, we are nowhere near achieving a consensus either.
Many educated and middle-class Thais still feel that the voice of the majority is only legitimate as long as it reflects an endorsement of their preferred political party. They cite voters' lack of adequate formal education, or deception by corrupt and autocratic politicians, as |reasons to disregard the voice of the majority any time, as they did in 2006. Basically, many will stick to the "rules" if it benefits or meets their desired results, but are ready and willing to discard the rules if it doesn't bring their desired |outcome.
These people love to say: Elections are fine if a "good" party or politicians win. And a coup is commendable if a "bad" government is ousted. It's all about good and bad, and nothing about accepting common rules, respecting equal political rights or having a social contract. Thus Thai society should stop fooling itself that most of us have a full commitment to a democratic system.
This writer doesn't know how long it will take for a consensus that is socially binding to be achieved. We have no common political pole to unite around. Unlike in the United States, South Korea or Japan, where coups are unthinkable and unacceptable to most, as long as there is no consensus on a democratic system, military coups or even "judicial coups" will continue to be part of the Thai |political landscape.