Our system is a democracy of lesser evils

Our system is a democracy of lesser evils

A friend of mine who is not so fond of Suthep Thaugsuban has chastised the former Democrat Party strongman for having successfully raised an army of supporters to give the Pheu Thai Party a run for its money.

The Democrat Party, in my friend's view, has consistently been the underdog in many an election because it did not have on its side the 'visible' supporters _ ones who are fearless of parading their political affiliation on the streets.

Opposition supporters just went to the polls, dropped their ballots and slipped back into stealth mode.

It is a world apart from the Pheu Thai Party which has a virtually unbreakable loyalty from the red shirts who are not only out and visible but also unafraid to come out in the party's defence.

My friend said the Democrats have fought back and tried to defeat the Pheu Thai at its own game. And it has made a huge stride judging from the turnouts of the Nov 24 and Dec 9 anti-government rallies. The size of the whistle-blowing crowds on both landmark days may be disputable but they were huge by whichever lens you watched them through.

When I relayed my friend's comment in a Line chatroom, the relative peace was instantly shattered.

A bombardment of counter remarks spun out of control.

The gist of the arguments went along the lines of the mass supporters being non-partisan and non-political. They simply hated Thaksin Shinawatra, and what he stands for, to the bone and many of them were not Democrats and could not care less about the party.

Several comments were posted to explain that they were not Democrat supporters, never were and most probably never will be. They had voted for other parties in previous elections and were disenchanted by every single one of them.

One commenter said he was not about to give the Democrats a try either, feeling it has "flip-flopped on principle and yet unbent on intransigence". Whatever that means.

The commenter said he decided to hit the streets on Dec 9 because, he alleged, Thaksinocratic cronies had plundered the nation and the government was trying to unjustly exonerate him. He also mentioned he had to join the mass protest walkabout after protest leader Mr Suthep announced he had severed ties with the Democrats, the party he had worked for as secretary-general in its glory days.

So, I asked a question: What party will earn your vote in the next general elections, whenever that might be? Like it or not, we can't get away from representative democracy, can we?

There was a long pause before the commenter declared he will vote for no party. But then he retracted his answer and demanded that the election rules be rewritten for the sake of free and fair polls.

But will a free and fair poll deliver any significant dent to the Pheu Thai Party's vote pool? Last time anyone looked, we weren't exactly spoiled for choice.

Actors in our theatrical politics haven't changed much either. A lot of the new faces are heirs of political clans sent in to cement their parties' hold on power.

At the top of the parliament food chain are the Pheu Thai and the Democrats. The smaller fishes, the likes of the Chartthaipattana and the Bhumjaithai parties, are likely to go on the side of whichever large party triumphs at the ballot box.

A theorist in the chatroom has said the unprecedented consolidation of the mass anti-Thaksin movement was the product of our own crippled separation of powers. The coalition of parties which grab the majority seats in parliament are represented in the cabinet and so the two of the three "legs" of power are one and the same, leaving the judiciary the independent branch standing.

As majoritarianism rules, and looks to be unassailable in parliament, the Pheu Thai secured it with the unfeigned support of many red shirts, who can be counted on to rally on the streets behind the party and queue up at the polling booths with ballots ticked for the Pheu Thai Party.

The Democrats may want to emulate the Pheu Thai by capitalising on the band of "visible" mass supporters who might bridge the Pheu Thai's margin of election victory in the next election.

Strategically speaking, even if some anti-government supporters may not subscribe to the Democrats, their dread of seeing the party with the Thaksin label reliving another four years in office could compel them to ultimately cast their ballots for the Democrats.

If a point could be drawn from the chatroom debate, it might be that who has the last laugh on the political chessboard walks away with "the democracy of the masses" as their trophy.

Kamolwat Praprutitum is an assistant news editor, Bangkok Post.

Kamolwat Praprutitum

Bangkok Post assistant news editor

Kamolwat Praprutitum is an assistant news editor, Bangkok Post.

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