Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Welcome to a grim political future

May 24. 2019
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By The Nation

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The election has generated no hope at all as old-school politicking lays waste to lingering optimism that society’s problems might be resolved

To no one’s real surprise, politics since the March 24 election has been all about politicians and not the genuine needs of the people. Horse-trading and gamesmanship have been the hallmarks of the race by rival camps seeking to form the next government, which once again appears likely to be dictated by the outcomes of bargaining, vengeance and backstabbing – anything but concern for the ordinary man’s wellbeing and the future of our nation. What is worse, however, is that our extremely divided populace appears to be only vaguely aware that the power plays underway serve neither them nor the country in the slightest.

We note with chagrin that, for example, no one is talking about who is best qualified to serve as finance minister at a time when the world economy is in turmoil fuelled by the US-China trade war, which is crippling Thai exports as well as threatening global security. On the contrary, deal-making MPs-elect are debating only about which party should get the top Cabinet portfolios – read: the most lucrative in terms of kickbacks. It’s the scale of the ministry budget that matters, not any candidate’s qualifications to do a good job running that ministry.

No one is particularly keen to be given the Education Ministry and take on the daunting, thankless yet wholly essential task of revamping the school system. That ministry’s name doesn’t even come up as the Phalang Pracharat and Pheu Thai parties and their respective allies fight for control. The Interior and Defence ministries are the golden goals, the post of House speaker the crucial turnkey when it comes to who has the parliamentary advantage.

This is old-time politics at its worst, making a mockery of some politicians’ insistence to the electorate that bad habits are a thing of the past. If we had indeed entered a new era, we wouldn’t be arguing over the election of senators or penalties designed to keep the military from intervening in politics. What would truly be new would be political blocs competing to get their most qualified people at the helm of the Education and Agriculture ministries. If that could be achieved, who would care what camp the senators come from?

Both rival camps, with varying degrees of manipulation, are trying to convince citizens that the solutions to their problems rest in their votes, that ordinary people can decide the outcome of the election and its aftermath. They are, in essence, offering to solve problems they themselves created. Instead, people of dubious intent might return to key positions in government, enemies are becoming friends on the basis of their personal agendas, and friends are becoming foes just to spite someone else.

The national reconciliation promised by the military junta now appears impossible. The only possible turnaround would come from politicians admitting that their politicking is the barrier that is blocking Thailand’s progress. Whoever runs the new government will be hounded by the politics of vengeance and survival, and glaring issues such drug addiction, crime, pollution, falling commodity prices, labour incompetence and poor education rankings will remain unresolved. And the opposition will spotlight those issues not because it really cares but only because it wants to unseat the government, which would in turn produce no change.

We see no hope for change in this morass, only gloomy times ahead.

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