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Love Among the Ballot Boxes

‘Under the new regulation, those wanting to contest MP and Senate elections must not have parents and spouses who are MPs, senators, members of local administrative bodies, or local administrators.’ — Newspaper report on a new constitutional provision.

It was a whirlwind romance.

She was a rising Pheu Thai star.  A pale-faced beauty from the north with a graduate degree in soft furnishings from a prestigious academy in Knightsbridge, London, just round the corner from Harrods, her career as an MP had blossomed when she was made Deputy Assistant Party Spokesperson on Cosmetic Affairs. 

With her doting family’s wealth behind her and one of the most active social media accounts in the House, she was a shoo-in for re-election.

He was an up and coming name in the Democrat Party.  An MBA in International Finance from a small Midwestern university and an internship in the family brokerage house served as excellent training for understanding the economic problems of ordinary Thais.  So he was made Acting Personal Assistant to the Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Shadow Deputy Minister of Finance.

In a party that has long banked on the good looks of Lo Yai and Lo Lek and all the other young scions of privilege, his potential to attract voters, especially female voters, had him high up on the party list.

They met at the Subcommittee on Complexion Discrimination of the House Standing Committee on Non-Prescription Medical Supplements where the latest racist advertising campaign for whitening creams was being discussed.  Despite the difference in their political affiliations, they were surprised to find themselves in agreement. 

Both expressed similar views: that it would be unfair to stigmatize naturally pale-skinned people just because thousands were impoverishing themselves and endangering their health in an attempt to whiten their faces, and other body parts, with the encouragement of misleading and unscrupulous advertising.

A shy invitation and an equally shy acceptance to share a skinny latte at the House bistro was followed by dinner at an exclusive restaurant and a stroll along the new riverside walk where she daringly allowed him to h*ld her h*nd.

Their political differences were always in the back of their minds, but none of that seemed to matter as two crazy kids fell ever more deeply in love.  They informed their parents, who, to their pleasant surprise, were more interested in the other family’s wealth and social connections than their political persuasion.

The bride-price was successfully negotiated, the wedding was arranged, and the invitations sent out.  The difficult choice of which party grandee to serve as senior guest was skilfully finessed by securing the services of a minor royal.  And then unexpectedly, parliament was dissolved a week before the wedding. 

They barely had time for a honeymoon on a hideaway island in the Caribbean (a tax haven where they were able to offload surplus wedding donations into an anonymous trust) before rushing back for candidate registration. 

And then the letters from the Election Commission arrived; one for Mr and one for Mrs.  They couldn’t both stand for parliament without breaking the law.  One of them would have to stand down, or both, and the Election Commission showed exemplary gender equality in not saying which one had to sacrifice for the other.

Their appeals for understanding were heart-rending.  They had both served in the last parliament; why should they not continue to do so just because they now shared a family name and a bed?  What nepotism could endanger the purity of parliament when they were in opposing political parties?  The social media were abuzz with controversy.  Everyone had an opinion, even if, nay, especially if they had no understanding of the case.

Alas, the Election Commission was deaf to their pleas.  A constitutional provision written in dogmatic ignorance, it decided, must be implemented with an equal degree of bone-headed intransigence. 

The case was rushed before the Constitutional Court who ruled that while it was not clear that the Court had jurisdiction, the Election Commission could not possibly be wrong, its members being Good People handpicked for their righteous and rigid adherence to conservative principles.

There was a danger that the relationship would descend into acrimony and bickering.  But then the solution dawned on them.

They arranged a quickie divorce, stood as newly single candidates, got elected and promptly re-married.  The law talks only of restrictions on who can become an MP, not who an MP can marry.

But what, their friends and family asked, would happen if, by a miracle, this parliament should manage to get to the next election without an intervening coup?  Wouldn’t they be barred from the next election?

No.  It was just a question of a re-divorce and a re-re-marriage. 

In this way the charter drafters have contributed to the strengthening of family values of the country.

About author:  Bangkokians with long memories may remember his irreverent column in The Nation in the 1980's. During his period of enforced silence since then, he was variously reported as participating in a 999-day meditation retreat in a hill-top monastery in Mae Hong Son (he gave up after 998 days), as the Special Rapporteur for Satire of the UN High Commission for Human Rights, and as understudy for the male lead in the long-running ‘Pussies -not the Musical' at the Neasden International Palladium (formerly Park Lane Empire).

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