Party bans no solution
Now the election is drawing near, concerns are arising over certain political tactics that may derail the government formation process, particularly if conservative factions cannot win a majority.
Such tactics cannot be ruled out given that the incumbent government has on its side quite a few independent agencies that came into existence during the coup regime. Among them is the Election Commission (EC), which has been dogged by controversy, including imposing a vote calculation system favouring the Palang Pracharath Party in the 2019 election.
Concerning complaints ahead of the forthcoming poll, there is speculation that some parties are at risk of being dissolved should the EC play along with complaints instigated by self-serving politicians.
Bhumjaithai leader Anutin Charnvirakul said such harsh penalties might spoil the election atmosphere. Mr Anutin said the law should target individuals breaching the rules rather than their party.
Parties disbanded in the past had an anti-military stance: the People's Power Party of fugitive Thaksin Shinawatra twice, in 2007 (then as Thai Rak Thai) and 2008, along with its partners. Party executives were red-carded, with a five-year ban from politics imposed.
The Thai Raksa Chart Party, sister party to Pheu Thai, was dissolved shortly before the 2019 election. Following suit was the Future Forward Party of Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit who, along with party executives, must serve a 10-year ban from politics.
Such penalties are perceived as a tool wielded by the powers-that-be to get rid of their political opponents via the EC or the Charter Court. Regardless of the actual motivation behind those penalties, the harsh reality remains: the dissolution of parties cannot bring an end to conflicts. Instead, such penalties could further intensify conflicts and widen political polarisation that may lead to protests or chaos.
This time around, all major parties face possible dissolution threats. Pheu Thai's opponents petitioned the EC to see if Pheu Thai has complied with the law in hiring Nattawut Saikuar as its election campaign assistant. A senator who brought the case to the EC alleged that Mr Nattawut, a former list MP for Thai Raksa Chart, is still banned from politics in accordance with a court ruling.
Paetongtarn Shinawatra, Pheu Thai's chief adviser on public participation and innovation, faces a similar accusation after showing on her Instagram photos she took with her father, fugitive ex-leader Thaksin. Thaksin's phone-in advice at Pheu Thai forums is interpreted as his using his influence over the party, an act that may put Pheu Thai in trouble. The Move Forward Party is also accused of breaching the election law concerning campaigning help it gets from Mr Thanathorn, Piyabutr Saengkanokkul and Pannika Wanich.
The Palang Pracharath Party is being probed for allegedly accepting donations from Chinese mafia. BJT is also being investigated after tycoon turned whistle-blower Chuvit Kamolvisit urged the EC to scrutinise donations to the party. Somchai Srisutthiyakorn, ex-election commissioner and chairman of Seri Ruam Thai's policy steering committee filed complaints against United Thai Nation, accusing a key party figure of drawing the monarchy into politics.
The EC should be aware that such complaints are par for the course in politics. Dissolving a party is no solution and will take Thailand nowhere. Instead, the EC should focus on ensuring the coming polls are free and fair, so the voices of the people are duly respected.
Bangkok Post editorial column
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