Note: Mr. Suriyasai Katasila, coordinator of the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD), wrote an article entitled “New politics” of the PAD challenge in Manager Online, clarifying the proposed “70: 30” political system where 70 percent of officeholders are appointed while 30 percent are elected. The writer believes that this new flagship strategy of the five PAD leaders for the general public will raise the level of the struggle of the leaders and supporters of the PAD.
Suree Mingwannalak has also written a Critique of Suriyasai Katasila’s “New Politics”, arguing that the PAD leadership are trying to raise the level of the struggle, but this won’t achieve it; in fact it will take the people backward. She also questions whether this new politics will come at the cost of a revolution, a coup d’état, the tearing up of the constitution, a national government or an interim government.
Prachatai invites its readers to consider the two articles below.
“New Politics” and the PAD challenge
By Suriyasai Katasila
Source: Manager Online, 25 June 2008
“A challenging proposal by the leaders of the PAD is the 70:30 model, where 70 percent of political officeholders will be appointed while 30 percent will be elected. This can be counted as a start or an initiative for society to consider and debate more widely.”
The PAD mobilized hundreds of thousands of people through the barricades of police and has been successful in seizing the area in front of Government House without the violence that many sides had feared. The PAD also built a huge permanent stage at Chamaimaruchet Bridge and has been holding regular speeches similar to the ones held earlier at Makawan Rangsan Bridge.
The issue that has raised the interest and questions from the media and which has developed into a debate among a larger group is the proposal by the five leaders regarding the establishment of a “new politics”. It is a critique of the current parliamentary politics which has not been able to heal or solve the national crisis in a timely manner.
The new politics has become a political discourse that different groups have tried to understand, interpret, and expand, and concerns have been raised that the PAD has a special or hidden agenda behind this new flagship policy.
As coordinator of the PAD, I have been quite familiar with the thoughts of the five PAD leaders from meeting with them both inside and outside meeting rooms.
I feel that the new flagship policy by the five PAD leaders which calls for the “joint establishment of a new politics” will raise the level of the struggle of the PAD leaders and supporters.
Although this raising of the level might sound too advanced or beyond the understanding of the general public, it needs to be discussed and proposed. We must be brave and light a spark before everything is too late, or else, if we can compare the country to a fish, we will leave only the bones for the next generation.
If we look at the establishment of the PAD two or three years ago to campaign against Thaksin Shinawatra and to expose the evil of the Thaksin regime to the public, we were campaigning back then under the theme of “national liberation”. In the end, although Thaksin was ousted through the coup and the Thaksin regime was removed to a certain extent, everything did not end there.
Things turned out to be worse after the election, and we now have a nominee government, and it is clear that Thai politics is heading back to the Thaksin system, with the re-emergence of Thaksin Shinawatra, and the political capitalists from the former Thai Rak Thai camp.
For these reasons, calls for the resurrection of the PAD could not be avoided. Under the new circumstances, the battle standard of the alliance is a new banner and larger than the one before. We call for “the overthrow of the Thaksin system and the ouster of the puppet government”. This will be “the last battle of national liberation”.
At the same time, we have declared a new war calling for nation-building under a new political discourse. We are calling to go beyond parliamentary politics, or 4-second democracy, or the cult of using elections to determine everything.
This “new politics” in the eyes of the PAD is a politics that will be people-centred. The power of representatives will be reduced while the role and power of the people will be increased.
No one can deny that parliamentary or representative democracy has been ridiculed around the world as being limited and incapable of facing world crises where evil capital is in control of things. The worldwide international movement of democratic development therefore has begun to give importance to reforming the democratic system so as to strengthen the participation of the people.
In some countries, especially in Scandinavia, not only is the role and decision-making power of elected-representatives decreased, decision-making power has been increasingly transferred to the people as the direct owners of sovereignty in the form of public hearings and referenda.
New politics in the sense of new democracy must not only give importance to the source and process of decision-making alone, but must create guarantees that people from all occupations and all classes will have access to decision-making power or will set the direction of national development in a concrete way, whether they are farmers, workers, the urban poor, the rural poor, marginalized ethnic peoples, traders, middle-class businesspeople, women, the disabled, or the socially disadvantaged.
This not only means that the proportion of seats in the legislative branch (MPs-senators) must be structured to guarantee diversity representation, but at the same time the executive branch needs to create space for these groups at the same level.
A challenging proposal by the leaders of the PAD is the 70:30 model, where 70 percent of political officeholders will be appointed while 30 percent will be elected. This is only the starting point to spark wider discussions and debates in society.
The details or model of the new politics needs knowledgeable people, academics, educational institutions, universities and different sectors to debate a structure to go beyond the cult of elections where capital rules and the country can be bought, while the people have only the right to vote obediently.
Many people may be curious as to how to start. Will there have to be a revolution or a coup? Will the constitution have to be torn up, or will a national or interim government be needed? But I feel that the means might not be as important as the principles. If society today wants to see the importance and the urgent necessity to build the nation and a new politics, the structure of the process might not be difficult and might be easier than we think and will not reach the level of violence in the city as many fear.
Today, the People’s Alliance for Democracy asks to take up the banner and promises to fight with all who love justice. The last war to overthrow the Thaksin system was just a transition to the holy war of joining together for the establishment and the realization of a new politics.
Critique of Suriyasai Katasila’s “New Politics”
By Suree Mingwannalak
Many people may be curious as to how the “joint establishment of the new politics” will start. Will there have to be a revolution or a coup? Will the constitution have to be torn up, or will a national or interim government be needed? These are principles and process that are important in themselves and which may not be different in reality. If action is taken through power outside the system or through the power of a coup, this will be very dangerous.
Will the so-called “holy way” turn out to be a “sinful war”?
‘“New Politics” and the PAD challenge’ by Suriyasai Katasila discusses an initiative of the five PAD leaders calling for the people to join in the establishment of a new politics and criticizes today’s parliamentary democracy which cannot be rehabilitated and cannot respond in a timely way to solve national crises.
The writer has some questions, observations, and differences.
1. The question is - are all parliamentary systems evil? From the past until today, in Thailand and internationally, this writer thinks that the assumption does not match the reality of Thai political development. This writer does not deny that the parliamentary system at this time is not able to solve the national crisis alone. It is necessary for the players outside parliament to work in parallel with parliament, but this does not mean that the system needs to be abolished or that the proportion of elected officeholders be reduced to 30 percent as proposed by Suriyasai.
2. At the same time, in different periods of Thai political history, comparisons have made between military-bureaucratic dictatorships on one hand and parliamentary systems with elected representatives on the other. The comparison asks which group would listen more to the people’s voice, which would be more open to checks and balances, which would allow people to change representatives when they are dissatisfied, and which would allow the mass media to expose wrongdoing by the ruling class. Surely, in reality the military-bureaucratic dictatorship system will not allow most of these.
Let me make an analogy with a village where the members of the village want to elect the village head themselves. The villagers really do not want a village head appointed by the Department of Provincial Administration. The villagers can negotiate with a village head that they have elected themselves better than with one appointed by Bangkok.
3. We have the lesson of the appointed government and National Legislative Assembly (NLA) after the 19 September coup. The government and NLA were appointed by the coup plotters, the Council for National Security. We saw that hundreds of acts violating the rights and liberties of the people were passed in a short time with no transparency or information given to the people. There was no opposition to submit a vote of no confidence motion as we have now. Is this a better option than a parliamentary system?
4. The article by Suriyasai said that the “joint establishment of new politics” by the five PAD leaders and the people raises the level of the struggle of the PAD leaders and its supporters.
However, this writer does not see this as raising the struggle of the PAD supporters, but as a regressive action by bringing the supporters backward through time to the past.
And how is that too advanced for their supporters?
In a development of democracy, the key feature is the people’s right to elect their own representatives. Some would say that the people are stupid for electing dirty politicians. On the other side, they also think that they are smarter in rejecting representatives like the NLA which were given to them by the coup leaders or the PAD.
5. “New politics” in the meaning of the PAD is a politics there the PAD will be the centre. Does it not mean that the power and responsibilities of the representatives and delegates will be decreased and the roles and power of the PAD will be increased? And that the people will be political pawns as it was before the 19 September coup?
6. The article by Suriyasai mentions that “In some countries, especially in Scandinavia, not only is the role and decision-making power of elected-representatives decreased, decision-making power has been increasingly transferred to the people as the direct owners of sovereignty in the form of public hearings and referenda.
Most importantly, those countries have parliamentary democracy as a key foundation, not power outside the system, power from a coup d’état, or bureaucratic power.
Therefore there should be no reference to “guarantees that people from all occupations and all classes will have access to decision-making power or will set the direction of national development in a concrete way, whether they are farmers, workers, the urban poor, the rural poor, marginalized ethnic peoples, traders, middle-class businesspeople, women, the disabled, or the socially disadvantaged”.
If the basic power to elect the people’s representatives is suppressed, so are the important basic guarantees of the people’s rights to bargain freely. For example, the people were able negotiate Community Forest Act with all elected governments. However, they could not do so with NLA. Therefore the Community Forest Act passed by NLA is another forestry-related law which is oppressive to the people.
7. Lastly, many people may be curious as to how the “joint establishment of the new politics” will start. Will there have to be a revolution or a coup? Will the constitution have to be torn up, or will a national or interim government be needed? These are principles and process that are important in themselves and which may not be different in reality. If action is taken through power outside the system or through the power of a coup, this will be very dangerous.
Will the so-called “holy way” turn out to be a “sinful war”?
Translated by Pokpong Lawansiri