By The Nation
We can only hope that today’s debate in Parliament gives due consideration to all candidates standing for the post of prime minister. Unfortunately that hope is likely forlorn, as the man proposed for the job by the pro-junta coalition can count on the block vote of a Senate his regime selected. But there are several prominent reasons why Prayut Chan-o-cha is neither fit nor qualified to lead Thailand.
First, the general has no faith in democracy. Many Thais have sacrificed their lives in the long fight for democracy since the 1932 revolution abolished absolute monarchy. The bloody end to the October protests of 1973 and 1976 as well as May 1992 and 2010 proved Thais’ deep faith in democracy. General Prayut, however, used the nation’s military to stage a coup that ousted an elected civilian government. Nobody on this planet can deem that action democratic.
Second, rather than fulfilling his promise to conduct much-needed national reform and reconciliation, Prayut and his junta have focused their efforts on securing and extending military rule. The junta-sponsored Constitution and its organic laws aim to weaken political institutions, notably political parties, while strengthening the role of the bureaucracy and military in politics. Prayut’s actions as junta chief over the past five years have reversed the process of democratisation in our country.
Third, the election machinations of Prayut, the junta and its organs ensured that the pro-military Phalang Pracharat Party and its allies won enough seats in the lower house to secure his premiership and future government. Through a dubious party-list calculation method, the Election Commission handed seats to micro parties who showed their clear intention to support Prayut.
Fourth, in a brazen conflict of
interest, Prayut handpicked 250 senators who will now return the favour by voting him back to the government top job. Nearly half of the Senate consists of military and police officers, mostly retired, who are certain to show loyalty to the junta chief and former head of the Army.
Had Prayut not put himself up as a candidate, the Senate could transform into a real legislative body and act as a check and balance to the lower house.
Fifth, Prayut showed his contempt for Parliament when he dismissed calls to reveal his vision as would-be PM during today’s session. “This vote is a process for Parliament,” he said. “I have nothing to do with it … there’s no need for me to show my vision. Also, the law does not require me to do so.” The words signal that Prayut regards the new Parliament much like its junta-formed predecessor – as a rubber stamp for his administration’s rule.
Sixth, Prayut is not a visionary leader. For the past half-decade his regime has simply copied and rebranded the policies and platforms of his enemies, the Shinawatra clan. Key men in his administration, including economics tsar Somkid Jatusripitak, were also powerful in Thaksin Shinwatra’s government. Prayut’s policy platform bears a close resemblance to Thaksin’s populism. His economic policies have mostly promoted big conglomerates while bringing no real benefit in the plight of the poor.
Seventh, parliamentarians should consider the fact that Prayut lacks a mandate from the people since he did not run for election. Also, he is the sole PM candidate nominated by Phalang Pracharat, which failed to win a majority of seats in the March election and thereby has little in the way of legitimacy to form a government. If he is elected today, Prayut’s administration will be one of the most unstable in recent history.