Democracy still in peril

Democracy still in peril

As Thailand has roller-coasters through the unprecedented social and economic impacts of the coronavirus outbreak, many could be forgiven for forgetting that we have not yet recovered from the hangover of the military's intervention in politics -- our dysfunctional democracy in its current form.

Today marks the first anniversary of the first general election after almost half a decade of military rule since the 2014 coup. A "return to democracy" has yet to materialise.

The country needs to rebuild democracy, but that cannot be done without restoring the credibility and legitimacy of key independent public organisations along with rewriting the charter and election laws.

The new laws, introduced by the regime's National Legislative Assembly (NLA), that favour pro-military political parties made the March 24 polls an unfair race in the eyes of many, despite all political parties contesting them in a bid to restore democracy.

The Election Commission's (EC) handling of the polls largely tainted the legitimacy of the process -- from the irregularities in its organisation of advance voting and vote counting to the unusual delay in announcing the results.

The EC's controversial interpretation of the election law on the formula for calculating and allocating party-list MP seats gave rise to the current coalition government -- a bloc which should have fewer seats than its rivals and would be in opposition had poll agency adopted another more widely accepted formula.

The agency has also filed many lawsuits against the popular Future Forward Party, seeking both the disqualification of its leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit and its dissolution as a whole. Another independent organisation, the Constitutional Court, took the unenvied role of making final decisions that saw both materialise.

While the rulings on these cases are still disputed, many still question the EC's dismissal of accusations against the pro-military Palang Pracharath Party over wrongdoing in its fundraising event in December 2019. Election-related cases against MPs from the party have also progressed at a snail's pace.

These and other incidents have prompted many to question the impartiality of both the EC and the Constitutional Court.

Steeped in controversy too is another "independent" agency, the National Anti-Corruption Corruption (NACC), whose dismissal of cases against certain members of the military regime has made it a laughing stock due to a lack of justification for the decisions.

These organisations' key role is to act as a checks-and-balances mechanism but public trust over its political partiality is wearing thin, partly because the majority of the commissioners of the EC and NACC were chosen by the NLA.

Under the new constitution, a large majority of the Senate, too, were appointed by the military and allowed to join the vote for prime minister. Needless to say, they all voted for Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha.

Like the election laws, the constitution has been criticised for its undemocratic nature. Calls for the rewriting the charter by a committee elected by the people are growing. The same goes for calls for the resetting of the leadership in these organisations through a new, transparent selection process.

The last poll may have brought about a new "elected" government, but the country's democracy will remain half-baked and dysfunctional without the restoration of credibility to these key mechanisms for democracy.

Editorial

Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.

Email : ploenpotea@bangkokpost.co.th


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