A crucial test for democracy

A crucial test for democracy

Today, the people of Thailand will exercise their democratic right to choose a new government and determine the direction of the country's democratic future.

While this day holds immense importance, it is vital to remember that the essence of democracy extends far beyond the ballot box.

The contests are fierce between the established powers and parties on the progressive front, leading many to describe this election as a turning point in Thailand's contemporary politics.

However, democracy is not a zero-sum game. Striking a balance between competing demands while remaining steadfast in the pursuit of justice, the rule of law and human rights is a continuous process that calls for great commitment and patience.

It is imperative, therefore, that all parties respect the voices of the people without resorting to unconstitutional means to undermine the democratic process, which regrettably has occurred far too often in recent history.

In this general election, approximately 52 million eligible voters will choose 500 MPs, with 400 coming from single-member districts and 100 from party-list seats.

Today, all eyes will not only be on who will secure the coveted seats but also on the Election Commission (EC) and its efforts to ensure a free and fair election.

The EC's integrity will face a critical test. A series of mistakes has raised public concerns about a potentially unfair electoral process.

To restore public trust, the commission must leave no room for suspicion. Every vote must be accurately counted, and the electoral process run transparently. The EC's commitment to upholding democracy will be judged based on its performance today. The public also expects the EC to promptly certify the results so the elected MPs can assume their responsibilities to fulfil their promises without delay.

Rumours abound regarding attempts to circumvent the will of the people by some parties and form a minority government. This breach of democratic principles is unacceptable.

The party that secures the majority of seats in the House of Representatives has both the moral right and duty to establish the government. Manipulating the political landscape to establish a minority government is not only detrimental to democracy but also self-destructive, given the inherent instability it entails.

The 250-seat junta-appointed Senate can potentially hinder a smooth democratic transition as it has the power to override the electorate's mandate and vote for a prime minister of their own choosing. While we hope the Senate will cherish the spirit of democracy by respecting the rule of majority vote, remarks by a few senators suggest stormy days ahead.

Sen Wallop Tangkananurak, one of 50 senators in a so-called neutral camp, says he will abstain from voting, while Sen Seree Suwanpanont said loud and clear that the current Senate has a unique mandate as they have been appointed to screen the qualifications of the prime minister.

Once in office, the MPs must recognise their responsibility to strengthen democratic institutions and push for meaningful reform that empowers the people, decentralises state authorities and bolsters active public participation.

Democracy, after all, extends beyond the electoral process. To foster a vibrant democracy, elected representatives must move swiftly to enact legislation that opens the political process. The previous administration rejected numerous citizen-sponsored legislative initiatives aimed at combating monopolies and autocratic policies. Such an obstruction must not occur again.

The top-down bureaucracy and top-down laws that disregard local voices are fundamentally undemocratic. The new government must put an end to this systematic injustice by expediting administrative decentralisation, such as granting greater decision-making powers and budgets to local governments.

It must also promote direct democracy by encouraging villagers to have a say in local projects and keep elected local administrations in check. These measures will foster more inclusivity and real direct democracy that goes far beyond the ballot box.

Meanwhile, citizens must exert pressure on parties to honour their promises and hold them accountable. It must be clear to them that the votes in subsequent elections depend on their commitment to the people this time around.

Today's election heralds the wind of change. When elections are free and fair, and when candidates accept both victory and defeat with dignity, democracies prosper. Parties must put the nation and its people above their own agendas and cooperate to build stronger democratic foundations.


Bangkok Post editorial column

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

Email : anchaleek@bangkokpost.co.th

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