Polls favour reform first campaign
Academic, ex-senator blast govt stay surveys
Opinion polls and web pages supporting "reforms before elections" have been popping up, amid criticism the campaign is an attempt to justify proposals to extend the tenure of the interim government.
Suan Dusit is the first pollster to weigh public opinion about a proposal to delay a general election for two years to allow the interim government of Prayut Chan-o-cha to push through national reforms.
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According to the findings of the poll, more than 75% of respondents agree the country should undergo reforms before the election takes place. Once reforms take root, the country will be stable and ready to move forward.
The remainder who disagree with the proposal do not believe reforms are a magic pill that can solve all problems and believe the process will take some time before it starts bearing fruit.
The poll was conducted between Wednesday and Saturday among 1,249 people throughout the country, shortly after the two-year delay proposal was floated by a group of National Reform Council members, led by Paiboon Nititawan.
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Asked which area of reform should be implemented before others, 74% pointed to the economy, followed by education, and politics. About 36% said a two-year time-frame is suitable to carry out reforms, while 31% preferred a one-year reform period. About 18% favour a reform period of three years due to the complexity of the issues.
Meanwhile, the Isra News Agency reports that several web pages have been launched to campaign for the proposal to extend the military-led government's tenure, and are asking the public to sign up in support.
One of the campaigns is "Give 1 Million Likes to Gen Prayut" on Facebook. The page calls for netizens to demonstrate their desire for Gen Prayut to stay on as prime minister for the next four years.
The online poll launched on Friday is set to close later this month and the petition will be submitted to Gen Prayut on June 30.
As of Sunday evening, more than 8,200 had voted in favour of Gen Prayut's term extension, while only about 450 voted against.
Kapook.com has also run a poll on the proposal with respondents being asked to choose between "two more years" or "stick to the roadmap". The poll is set to close on Friday.
Some political observers see the campaign as predictable and designed to reflect the view of the powerful to justify the proposal for the coup-installed administration to remain in power.
Prapas Pintoptaeng, a political scientist at Chulalongkorn University, has warned that an opinion survey is by no means a public referendum and should not be treated as a reliable piece of information.
Citing his study on opinion surveys on political issues, he said most opinion surveys are flawed. He noted the findings cannot be used to hold a referendum on the proposed extended tenure for the Prayut government.
He said a public referendum is based on the majority-rule principle and it should be organised on certain issues such as a public policy or the scope of state powers, not on how long an administration should remain in power.
Jon Ungphakorn, a former Bangkok senator and social policy activist, has lambasted the proposed referendum on the government's tenure, saying it is a tradition adopted by countries with an authoritarian rule.
Such surveys would not represent the whole populace.
However, Sukhum Chaloeysap, chief adviser of Suan Dusit Poll, defended the survey's integrity, saying there is no hidden agenda.
The pollster runs a survey every week and the topics are those which have the public's attention, he told Bangkok Post.
The proposal on "reforms before election" is the hottest topic of the week, he said, adding other pollsters will conduct similar surveys, he said.
He said the Suan Dusit Poll is not being used as a political tool and the survey is carried out in line with academic standards.
Maj Gen Veerachon Sukonthapatipark, deputy government spokesman, said the poll result has boosted the government's morale, while pointing out the findings only reflect the opinions of a group of people. The spokesman said it does not mean the Prayut government will use such public support to keep itself in power.
Pheu Thai member Chaturon Chaisaeng said the proposal does not make the interim government look good. Their hold on power has already been extended by almost a year due to a planned referendum on a draft charter, he said.
If the interim government prolongs its stay in power further it will stir discontent both in and outside the country, he added.
"When a mistake is made by an authoritarian government, the damage is serious because no one can protest and the public can't hold it to account. Reforms that lack vision and direction and pay no attention to criticism cause confusion," he said.
Isara Wongkusolkij, chairman of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, urged the public not to speculate on whether the government will spend longer in office.
He said the business sector is more concerned about economic security than a government's tenure.
Meanwhile, Suriyasai Katasila, a former key member of the People's Democratic Reform Committee, is urging the government to consider the proposal carefully, saying it takes about a year to push for reforms to take root.
He said political parties should see the positive response by the public as a warning and start reforming themselves.