By The Nation
The results of public opinion surveys can often be challenged, but surely few would debate the central finding of last week’s Suan Dusit Poll – that most people are fed up with the political games still taking place in the wake of the March 24 election.
More than 1,100 citizens were quizzed and a solid majority said vested interests had once again overcome the essential tenet of politics, to serve the public, and those same self-aggrandising interests were delaying the formation of a new government. Asked specifically whether the tardiness in establishing a working government stemmed from elected representatives’ genuine concern for the national wellbeing, most respondents answered in the negative.
Few respondents would agree that the politicians were worried about them, even when the failure to find a compromise is commonly blamed on ideological conflict among the rival factions. It appears plain enough to most people, for example, that when a party being wooed to join a coalition to form the government insists on constitutional amendments, that party is likely to benefit from the amendments. In fact, parliamentary crises arising from proposed constitutional changes have never centred on matters that directly affect the public’s best interests.
Politics is, of course, a game of chess, but Thai politics has for too long been nothing more than faux gamesmanship, lacking the finesse, the well-considered gambits and sacrifices and the long-range visualisation that masters of the board display. The result is destabilising social conflict, tumbling governments and a shameful lack of national progress. Here, we have rudimentary politics involving sneaky senate appointments and constituency skulduggery. These people are having fun playing their game, without showing a whit of sincere concern over Thailand’s failing grades in education.
It sometimes feels pointless debating at this late date which parties are on the right or wrong side of history. Nothing has been achieved in arguing that tighter government over elected MPs, who are after all seen as prone to buying votes, might enable the prime minister to work more efficiently, to the country’s ultimate benefit. That was the intimation in the military junta’s appointment of 250 senators, though an admission that the senators would likely be used as pawns in an endless cynical game was lacking.
Nor is it clear whether our politicians twist logic as a game ploy or sincerely misunderstand basic social principles. Prayut Chan-o-cha, newly returned as prime minister, says the major ministry portfolios must go to the major parties. Future Forward leader Thanathorn Juangroong-ruangkit claims he has been unjustly saddled with a form of legal harassment that drags down the whole of society. Both of them are wrong. Cabinet posts must go to only qualified people, regardless of party affiliation, and individual citizens are obliged to fight any legal challenges they face, not try and churn up a popular uprising.
The Dusit Poll’s findings made it obvious what we want. Asked what the major parties should prioritise, most respondents listed, in order, concern for the public interest, respect for the law, and prompt formation of a government. Smaller parties, they said, should keep their election pledges, abstain from triggering turmoil that is self-serving, and refuse to become the tools of more powerful parties. The wonder of it all is that citizens have to set out such basic demands in the first place.