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How to get the election results you want


Politicians who take voters for granted while they play the post-election numbers game should be resisted

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Politicians have been complaining that the junta is taking advantage of other political players ahead of the next general election. They accuse certain senior government figures of encouraging – behind the scenes – a group of veterans led by Suriya Juengrungruangkit and Somsak Thepsuthin to woo former MPs into their fold.
The ongoing moves by the group called Sam Mit (Three Friends) are alleged to help boost a pro-junta political party that’s in the making, called Palang Pracharat, in a bid to win as many Lower House seats as possible. The new party reportedly plans to support Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha’s return as head of a post-election administration.
If the alleged plot were actually favoured by strategists of the pro-Prayut party, long-time observers of Thai politics would not be surprised. This tactic of assembling as many former MPs in the hope of winning a majority in the House of Representatives is nothing new in this country. Plenty of pro-military parties and aspiring coalition leaders adopted this tactic successfully in the past.
Critics and politicians from the parties that stand to be affected by possible defections are condemning the tactic as “old rotten politics”. Those politicians might have forgotten – or are ignoring – the fact that even founders and patriarchs of their parties resorted to this very tactic when they badly wanted to win an election. And the tactic proved to be a wise one. It became relatively common practice for many politicians aspiring to gain political power at the polls. Maybe the complaining politicians know the tactic worked quite well in the past, which would explain why they’re angry at the people who are copying it in competing against them to gain political power.
The strategy often worked because former MPs usually had a better chance at re-election than newcomer candidates. This was mainly because the old hands could count on networks of canvassers ready to help them win votes in exchange for financial reward and other benefits. The candidate with the strongest canvasser network and better offers is usually the one who wins the election. The winner then rewards his canvassers, typically community leaders and other locally respected figures, with benefits and protection. In close-knit rural communities, voters tend to listen to their local leaders when it comes to making a choice at the polling station. 
One shortcut to electoral victory is to gather as many as possible of these politicians with strong networks of canvassers. The practice has continued in Thai politics for decades and will remain with us as long as there is no significant change in voter behaviour. Voters who would like to see an end to the practice and the “old rotten politics” need to resist canvassers’ attempts to influence their choices. They should be basing their ballot decision on the comparative qualities of the candidates as they personally assess them, and not according to what the canvassers tell them. Voters should also give newcomers fair appraisal. A clean and impressive background usually outweighs lack of experience when the alternative is a veteran politician with a questionable past.
Too many politicians take the voters for granted and care more about the post-election numbers game and numerical advantages in Parliament. Voters ought to teach them a lesson with their collective power at the ballot box. This way, they can at least help clean up Thai politics to some extent.

Published : July 04, 2018

By : The Nation