Farce in Thailand

Farce in Thailand, South-east Asia, Myanmar, Bangkok, Pheu Thai, Phalang Pracharat

Pheu Thai party's candidate for prime minister Sudarat Keyuraphan (L) is hugged by a supporter during the party's final major campaign rally in Bangkok on March 22, 2019, ahead of the March 24 general election. (Ye Aung THU / AFP)

Thailand is in crisis. The post-election confusion is direly chaotic, the country ever so fractious. And it is testament to the overwhelming mistrust and uncertainty that the results of Thailand’s tryst with democracy after eight years shall not be known before 9 May, indeed 45 days after the votes were cast last Sunday. This can well be reckoned to be a spurious record in the psephological narrative ~ the first time that the outcome has been delayed for as long as it has. This has led to allegations of foul play, cheating and ineptitude on the part of the military and the Election Commission. In the net, the primary goalpost of any election is in disarray with governance reduced to a state of suspended animation, verily a crisis that is bound to bear on the rest of South-east Asia. It reflects poorly on the dramatis personae in the power-play ~ the royalty, the omnipotent military, and the political class ~ as the country reflects on the startling disclosure of international observers that the process of counting the votes lacked transparency and was what they call “deeply flawed”. The military, once in authority, is loath to give up the levers of power. So it is in Thailand. Myanmar, the neighbour to the north, affords a classic example of a military fiddle that can masquerade as a parliamentary election (November 2015). Unlike Naypidaw, Bangkok has scarcely been able to ignore international opprobrium. On a parity of reasoning, the General Headquarters cannot evade responsibility for the grot amidst the glitz of Bangkok. There are inconsistencies in the results that have been announced. In consequence, the country has been plunged into political turmoil and confusion.

The report of the Asian Network for Free Elections (ANFREL) is a severe indictment of the process ~ “international standards for free and fair elections had not been met in Thailand, both in the buildup to the poll and on election day itself, as well as in the continuing fallout from the ballot count”. The farcical exercise has been exposed fair and square within 72 hours of the vote. The “trustworthiness of the counting process” is open to question. Prior to the election, concern had been expressed by the opposition and human rights groups that the military would ensure that this was neither a free nor fair election. The system was already skewed in its favour not the least because of the draconian legislation that prevents criticism of the junta. With competitive eloquence, two opposing parties have now claimed victory. Unofficial results indicate a victory for the pro-democracy party, Pheu Thai, at the constituency level, having won 137 seats. However, the pro-military party, Phalang Pracharat, received a larger share of the popular vote, which it claimed gave it legitimacy to rule. The dubious election has yielded a neckand- neck race; neither party has gained 250 seats that are required to form a majority government. Instability has been reinforced. This is the bitter paradox of Thailand’s election.