About 12 million people dislike Thaksin, while 14 million Thais support him. Thailand is neatly split. It is similar to the North/South conflict during the US Civil War in the 19th century.
The 12 million people voting against him are mostly the people from the South, which is the political base of the opposition Democrat Party, the Bangkok middle class and the urban voters. The 14 million supporters of Thaksin are mostly rural voters in the Northeast and North of Thailand.
Thaksin succeeded in the strategy of divide and rule between his premiership in 2001 and 2006. His legacy continues to this day.
Thaksin’s protesters view that his regime, now reincarnated as the People Power Party, represents the Tyranny of the Majority. It is corrupted and represents Thai politics as we know it.
The Thai politics as we know it is the electoral process, where the politicians buy the votes and take over the government to distribute the wealth among themselves and their cronies, leaving the general public with the left over bones. Once the politicians are in power, the people have no way to hold them accountable.
Investing in the Thai politics yields very attractive return. The sovereign wealth funds, which have spent billions of dollar to buy into Citibank’s recapitalisation last year, get a tiny stake each in the US bank. They also have little control in the management of Citibank.
But in Thai politics, an MP is worth around Bt30 million or around US$1 million. To have a majority control in Parliament of 470, one needs to spend only US$200-US$300 million US dollar to bring the majority MPs to one’s wing. The MPs then go on to buy votes from the voters.
Then one is in a position to run the whole country, manage the annual budget of about Bt1.8 trillion, exploit the government concessions and natural resources.
The investment return in Citibank�is incomparable to the investment in Thai politics.
The protesters occupying the Government House do not want this kind of democracy as defined loosely and singularly by the electoral process. The Thai democracy as we know it follows the vicious cycle of election, corruption, military coup and then a new constitution throughout the erratic democratic path of Thailand since 1932.
The anti-government protesters look upon the People Power-led government as Tyranny of the Majority. In this arrangement, once the politicians get elected, they take over the government and move on to appoint their own people to serve their self-interests without listening to opposition or criticism. They go on to undermine the check and balance system.
But Thaksin’s supporters, largely in the Northeast and the North, view that Thaksin and his people play by the democratic rules. They have been elected by the majority of the Thai people. Moreover, Thaksin is their champion because he introduces universal healthcare and cheap credit to them.
The rural voters view that all governments are corrupt. Thaksin government might not be an exception. But at least, the voters can get something in the form of populist policy out of the Thaksin government whereas past governments have ignored their plight. Thai politics belong to the elite in Bangkok.
The anti-government protesters want democracy without corruption and nepotism. The rural voters look upon democracy as a festival when the politicians hand them money or feed them with good food or take them on a holiday tour. Democracy for the rural voters means the politicians bring them populist policies and look after their welfare because they have voted for the politicians.
Ironically, the champion of the poor is Thailand’s richest person, whose wealth of almost US$2 billion kept in the banks is being frozen. By all standard, Thaksin is an elite, who knows how to get around the political system.
The Thaksin’s supporters view the protesters as nothing more than sore losers, the Tyranny of the Minority, who have no respect for democracy. The Thaksin’s supporters challenge that if the protesters do not like the government, they should wait after four years and try to prove their point in the election polls.
The supporters of the Tyranny of the Minoarity argue that they are not good at manipulating the election polls. Come any election, the Thaksin’s people would win because they have so much money in store. The democratic rules must be reformed to make it easier for capable people to serve politics–not just the old-faced politicians alone.
The anti-government protesters want new politics with governance, removal of money politics, and genuine check and balance. They do not trust the politicians.
The pro-government supporters want the political status quo (let’s prove it at the election polls). They believe the politicians, who are their representatives, have done their job adequately. No matter how the constitution is reformed, they will continue to pick the old faces as their representatives in Parliament.
In effect, Thai politics is kept in the box.
The Tyranny of the Minority vs the Tyranny of the Majority
Posted by: Thanong Khanthong , The Nation, October 8 , 2008