By The Nation
With Sunday’s election, two important and seemingly contradictory elements will become clear. First, Thailand will have taken a major step towards civil rule, and a semblance of parliamentary normalcy will return. Secondly, the political division that has hampered the country’s progress for two decades will not only remain unresolved but also quite likely intensify.
Voters, having indicated their
preferences, must now sit back and watch what the politicians do next – the first civilian politicians we’ve had in four years. It will be these people, not the men in uniform, who decide how the two elements – return to parliamentary rule and the ideological gulf – will affect Thailand’s future course.
There are many cynics who moan that, no matter what politicians achieve, the military will always find an excuse to interfere and undo what’s been done. The grumblers need to remember that, had our politicians been doing good work in advancing the country in 2006 and 2014, there would have been no rationale for the troops to take action. The coup four years ago came primarily because political violence at street rallies threatened to degenerate into bloody lawlessness.
At the same time the generals never fail to proclaim (as if innocent themselves) that politicians are forever getting caught in corruption scandals and then going unpunished. If there was less graft and if the corrupt politicians were prosecuted under a justice system that was swift and fair, another crucial pretext for military intervention would not exist.
It is clearly imperative that our return to parliamentary democracy is guided by the principles of transparency and responsibility. Politicians accused of wrongdoing shouldn’t be able to hide behind the defence that their rivals are merely smearing them. Faced with damning evidence, they should be obliged to mount a factual defence and let the public judge their guilt or innocence. If they cannot offer a sound defence, they should resign. If they refuse to resign, their party should remove them.
Our politicians must do their utmost to set aside the simmering hatreds that have hurt Thailand so badly all these years. Ignoring opportunities for constructive cooperation simply weakens the parliamentary system and leaves the door open to further unwanted intervention.
Next, all distortions must end – all the misinformation fed into the media regarding a multitude of issues. Certain cases involving politicians themselves have been inaccurately portrayed, in attempts to sway public opinion, as political persecution. The Alpine golf course scandal, for example, has been heavily politicised, although fundamentally it involved nothing more than people in power illegally grabbing land.
Let’s see more political parties pursuing policy proposals that truly benefit the people, in a complete absence of hidden agendas. Many policies have been questioned and politicised, but if parties adopt platforms that curb divisiveness and genuinely serve the people, parliamentary politics will be more constructive and productive.
Finally, for the election to have been truly meaningful, promises made during the campaign must be honoured. To renege on pledges publicly made is to make a mockery of future elections.
If our politicians can shape up after this poll, the return to civil rule will be a beneficial success. If not, we’ll be stuck in the same old vicious cycle.