There's more to democracy than poll wins

There's more to democracy than poll wins

For months we have witnessed anti-government movements around the world, from a series of protests at Taksim Square in Turkey to Tahrir Square in Egypt, with the Cairo movement eventually ending with a coup.

At home, we have the V for Thailand "white mask" group _ a gathering of people who simply want to maintain their anonymity.

Each of these movements' causes vary. In Turkey, it started with resentment over a plan to demolish a city park, and in Cairo, it stemmed from the fear of radicalism under the Muslim Brotherhood-led government.

In Thailand, it's rampant corruption that drove people into the streets.

V for Thailand may not compete with fellow protesters in Turkey and Egypt in terms of numbers, and after its decision to suspend political activities, the "white mask" group will no longer be a threat to the government.

And that, of course, should prompt a sigh of relief from those in power.

We have no idea if the "white mask" movement will fade into history, but their concerns are more than valid.

When a government is overly confident with its majority and wields the "we are democratically elected" mantra to do whatever it wants, it's not much different to a dictator.

Over 80 years since the country became a constitutional democracy in 1932, we have often witnessed the bad side of majority rule (don't get me wrong, I know a military dictatorship is much worse).

Let me give some examples of why we are frustrated with our democracy.

To begin with, this thing called democracy has not helped us much in getting rid of unscrupulous politicians. The bad guys keep making parliamentary comebacks, and _ more often than not _ to the Norasingha mansion.

We know majority rule can be unhealthy if the government thinks it has free rein to launch any projects or initiatives it wants no matter how problematic they are.

And what about the the opposition? They have a role in the House too, but what can they really do in this system since they are just the minority?

The dilemma of democracy is that it goes hand-in-hand with populism. Most of you must already realise how costly populism is. But for a few who are still not convinced, try googling "rice pledge".

When an elected government is overly confident, it can just shrug off certain democratic processes such as public hearings and other mechanisms that promote or require transparency.

A case in point is the water management scheme. It requires the government to take on massive loans, something in the range of 350 billion baht.

It's ironic that an elected government did not think of asking the people who would be affected by the scheme; or allow these people to pose questions in a democratic dialogue.

Worse, even though the Administrative Court ruled that public hearings are mandatory for the scheme, the government remains determined to go ahead with the borrowing process.

So what can we expect from the "public hearing?" Will it be another cosmetic move to legitimise the controversial scheme?

And don't forget the 2-trillion-baht loan for high-speed trains and other transport projects. Will an elected government care to promise us transparency for this scheme?

We know it's a case of democracy going wrong if a government, which claims to attach high importance to reconciliation, regards and treats those with different ideas as "enemies" and instead supports other groups, like red shirts, to counter and confront opposition and sometimes resort to intimidating acts.

Now that the government is singing the same tune as the armed forces (otherwise, the prime minister would not be now doubling as defence minister, giving faithful Sukumpol Suwanatat the boot), it may have full confidence it can avoid the Morsi scenario. So it's likely we will continue to hear the "we are democratically elected" line for quite a while.

But the government should know that mantra cannot help it much, especially when those in the silent majority lose their patience.

Ploenpote Atthakor is Deputy Editorial Pages Editor, Bangkok Post.

Ploenpote Atthakor

Former editorial page Editor

Ploenpote Atthakor is former editorial pages editor, Bangkok Post.

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