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Tuesday, June 07, 2011
These strange political times are a-changin'
Asakura Keita, a rural school teacher in Fukuoka prefecture in the popular TV drama series "Change," is devastated when his father and elder brother die in a plane accident.
Yingluck Shinawatra commanded SC Asset Plc at the time when her brother, Thaksin, was deposed by a military coup five years ago and now lives in self-exile to escape a jail term.
The unexpected tragedy in "Change" prompts the party to search for a candidate for a by-election in Fukuoka. The party to which Keita's father and brother belongs decides to go for him.
"I'm not interested at all in being a politician," he says when being talked into politics by the party.
Only a few months before this, Ms Yingluck also said exactly the same when reporters asked her about her desire to enter politics.
"It's not my time now," Thaksin's youngest sister said early this year.
Keita changes his mind because of his mother after she says the family must have someone to continue the political legacy left behind by her late husband and son.
After calculating all choices including former commerce minister Mingkwan Saengsuwan, Thaksin decided to select the one to whom he is closest: Ms Yingluck. She isn't the Pheu Thai Party leader but her position as the number one on the party list means she has been handpicked by her brother to challenge Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva as new prime minister.
The first-time politician Keita narrowly wins the by-election in the TV series. His sincerity and popularity later drive him to become the government leader. And he later becomes one of the most successful prime ministers in Japan when voters want a change and are weary of old-style politicians who always live in their ivory towers without time to listen to problems of people on the ground. Can Ms Yingluck follow that TV script? Nobody knows but it will be known after the poll on July 3. At least now she's the frontrunner to win the election by pollsters and her party.
"Change" was screened in Thailand on Thai PBS for the first time when the Democrats ruled the country. Viewers couldn't help but compare Keita with Mr Abhisit. Both are young, good-looking and energetic and have a burning desire to drive the country forward from political mess.
Keita is right; Mr Abhisit has a long way to go. Now the series is being rerun ahead of the crucial poll.
Thai PBS intentionally brings it back to remind voters of the dire need for determined, not corrupt, politicians to go to parliament when they drop the ballot on polling day.
As far as the series is concerned, the way Keita rises to power is closer to Ms Yingluck than Mr Abhisit.
Both are reluctant to turn to politics and give up their defiance.
Thai politics needs change. No doubt about that. But a new face in politics doesn't automatically guarantee voters and the country that she can turn politics and the country around.
It's too cruel to suspect the ability of Ms Yingluck to run the country if Pheu Thai wins the election and finally forms the government. Look at Keita for an example. He is proof. But that's on the screen, not in real life.
At least Keita is aided by staff members who have the same thing in mind: clean politics. Looking at people surrounding Ms Yingluck, you see all the familiar faces with unimpressive resumes. Then again, voters know that she might be remote-controlled by her brother from afar.
That doesn't mean her arch-rival, Mr Abhisit and the Democrat Party, is a better choice. The Democrat-led coalition government had a lacklustre performance since getting the administrative opportunity. The result is below expectations.
Thai PBS is to be commended for putting "Change" back on again.
Hopefully, viewers won't misinterpret the message from the series by going to vote for a new prime minister simply because the candidate is new.
Change? Yes. But change is for better, not for worse.
As long as this country doesn't have a candidate like Asakura Keita to run in the poll, the only way to do it is to pick the best of the bunch available out there. Then go back to watch "Change" to cheer yourself up.