The content in this page ("The politics of morality vs electoral legitimacy" by Pravit Rojanaphruk, The Nation) is not produced by Prachatai staff. Prachatai merely provides a platform, and the opinions stated here do not necessarily reflect those of Prachatai.

The politics of morality vs electoral legitimacy

The raids yesterday by the self-styled People's Alliance for "Democracy" (PAD) on the staterun NBT TV station, Government House and various ministries in Bangkok are pushing the public to decide where they stand.

What took place yesterday and in recent months is little short of a war to win support from a majority of the public.

But which of the two evils should they choose? The moralistic, selfrighteous, ultraroyalist, promilitary and probureaucracy PAD? Or an elected government run by an abusive political business empire still propelled in the shadows by Thaksin Shinawatra?

By seizing control of NBT television, the PAD showed yesterday they cannot and will not tolerate opposing views - and the only propaganda they approve of is their own, disseminated through ASTV, Manager daily newspapers and others in its alliance.

Combined with their attempt to paralyse the government of Samak Sundaravej, whom they regard as nothing but a proxy for Thaksin, the PAD is trying to achieve a certain kind of political victory. But even if they win, there will not be genuine democracy. Their brand of "people's struggle" cannot bring about genuine democracy because it's shortsighted, elitist and based on a lack of faith in the majority of voters.

Their deep distrust of voters, whom they regard as nothing short of naive and selfish, is reflected in their promotion of so-called "New Politics", under which 70 per cent of members of Parliament would be appointed, instead of elected.

They are also impatient by failing to allow democracy to take root and accept the decision of a majority of voters - that they can either make the right or wrong choice - or understand that over time, people will learn to become smarter political animals.

They have an elitist view that supports change from above, such as military coups and greater dependence on the monarchy. This is also well reflected by how the PAD leader¬ship treats its supporters. The leaders told their followers to wait until the whistle was blown yesterday and that they would give instructions on what to do next.

In the end one must ask whether the group is pro-democracy any longer, even if they may have good intentions for society and were pro-democratic at the beginning.

The public must not be tempted to support knee jerk attempts to bring about regime change because the only change is from one regime to another, without any democratisation in Thailand.

That doesn't mean that Prime Minister Samak and his administration should be off the hook. Samak relied on Thaksin to gain the PM's post, and with Thaksin represents a virtual monopoly on the electoral system. They claim that elections are the be all and end all of a democracy. But while elections are essential, they're not the only ingredient for successful democracies.

What about corruption? And abuse of power? And the political patronage clans in rural areas that pay lip service to the electorate, but continue to behave like political and business godfathers?

Bad as the situation may be, Samak must not be tempted to use draconian measures against unarmed PAD protesters.

And society, as well as the government, will have to learn to deal with these dramas in a civil and nonviolent manner.

Samak and Thaksin may be deeply flawed - abusive even - but another coup or a quick regime change brought about by huge demonstrations will not bring about democracy. More patience and earnest efforts to bring democratic political change to the masses are needed.

The elite and middle class aligned with the PAD must also learn to peacefully coexist with the rural and urban poor, who do not share their political views.

They need to work out the differences in a peaceful and law-abiding fashion. This will be a long, laborious task that will take years, if not decades, to achieve.

What we're witnessing is a political struggle between one elite group and another, and a clash between the politics of morality and the politics of electoral legitimacy.


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22 Apr 2021
22 Apr 2021

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