July 4, 2011
Source: Bangkok Post
Thank God the most fiercely contested election in many years is finally over. And those gullible alarmists _ who were duped by some rumour-mongers that the election would be postponed or cancelled by the Abhisit government, under the pretext that Thailand would declare war on neighbouring Cambodia over the Preah Vihear temple conflict _ may feel relieved that the election did take place.
By now the Election Commission, which was heavily criticised after its four members made an overseas trip to observe advance voting by overseas Thais in mid-June, should be busy verifying the vote count from all over the country. It is hoped that the official poll results will be announced later today, or as soon as possible. Many people, myself included, are anxious to know which party between the Democrats and Pheu Thai, will come first, despite earlier predictions of the country's top pollsters _ be it Suan Dusit Poll, Bangkok Poll or Nida Poll _ that Pheu Thai will win a landslide. Exit polls yesterday showed Pheu Thai winning a landslide capturing at least 300 out of 500 constituency and party list seats.
Since the people have made their choices of their own free will, it does not matter now which side wins the election. The results must be accepted and respected by all parties concerned, the military in particular _ provided, of course, that the Election Commission does its job properly and in a fair and transparent manner.
The winner will have the first right to form the government as tradition dictates. Whether or not there really is a back-door compromise deal between the military top brass and deposed former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra as rumoured, the latest assurance from army chief Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha that the military will steer clear of politics should help ease the anxiety of Pheu Thai, in that its attempt to form a government will not be blocked by the military, if it wins the election. But as far as voters are concerned, they have done their duty as responsible citizens by going to the polls. Many politicians would like the voters to do just that _ cast their ballots and then disappear, leaving the job of governing the country to them.
No longer should we voters be content with the role of passive onlookers from the sidelines. An election is just the first part of the democratic process. The mandate given to the politicians by the electorate is not a blank cheque which politicians can just fill in with whatever figures they like at their whim. Since democracy is about the participatory process, voters should be more assertive and should have a greater say in the way their representatives, as well as the victorious parties, run the country.
The Pheu Thai Party has a long-term vision up to the year 2020, probably with the big ambition that it will be in government not just for one four-year term but for 2-3 terms. Being farsighted is fine. But wouldn't it be better for the party to just concentrate on doing the best it can for the first term in office.
As a responsible voter and a humble citizen, I do not have a large long-term agenda, just a few expectations from the new administration, whether led by Pheu Thai or by the Democrats. Foremost among my expectations is to see peace being restored and reconciliation among all Thais, regardless of their political colours.
For the past several years Thailand has been plagued with a political divide such as has never before been seen in modern Thai history. The polarisation has worsened to the point that political discussion is prohibited during dinner within many families, otherwise there would be no peace among those families. I do not want to repeat about the violent protests by the red shirt followers in April-May 2010 and during Songkran the year before that, which only widened the political chasm.
Pheu Thai's prime ministerial candidate Yingluck Shinawatra earlier denied that the party has a plan to grant amnesty for her elder brother, deposed former prime minister Thaksin, or to return to him the 46 billion baht confiscated by the court.
But then, what is the party's plan for reconciliation? Will the plan incorporate a general amnesty for all, including red shirt and yellow shirt protesters involved in violent protests, as well as soldiers involved in the crackdown on red shirt protesters last year?
The Pheu Thai Party, which appears to be the clear election winner according to exit polls, should be able to announce its reconciliation plan in the near future. For any reconciliation plan to work, it must at least respect the rule of law and must not be discriminatory. Above all, forgive but don't forget.