Party dissolutions may leave the political crisis in limbo
IT could have been a smiling moon, a message from heaven telling us that everything is going to be all right soon. Or it could have been a big bad wolf emerging from the darkness above and bearing down on the Kingdom, ready to compound its misery. Me and you, we only see what we want to see.
So, what did your eyes tell you? If you saw the smiling moon on Monday night, you may have seen Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva dressing up for the long-overdue chief executive’s post. Or a national government may be forthcoming. Or, in a lesser feel-good scenario, the House of Representatives may be dissolved soon to give all of us a well-deserved break. The Jamaica vacation plan can be renewed. Amazon orders can finally be delivered to our houses.
To people upcountry, especially in the North and Northeast, the wolf has wasted no time. In less than 24 hours since that grin loomed in the gloom of the night, the parties that represented them were gone, and worse still it’s now not as easy as it first looked for their politicians to regroup. The back-up plan for a reincarnation of the People Power Party that would help it keep hold of power will come up against a series of legal challenges which could prolong everyone’s ordeal.
It seems nearly conclusive as of now that unaffected constituency MPs of the dissolved parties can vote to pick a new prime minister. What is far less certain is the status of the party list MPs. Can they move to a new party, since they became MPs in the first place not on their own but through a proportional representation system? In other words, since voters voted for their dissolved parties, not for them, can they defy the voters’ will by joining another party that may not be the preferred choice of some voters? To go to the extreme, should the party list MPs disappear along with the dissolved parties?
The questions could soon reach the Constitutional Court, disrupting the plan to quickly install a new government while maintaining its old core. And this doesn’t even take into account the possibility of some “homeless” MPs switching allegiance to the Democrat Party.
But all these obstacles don’t mean it wasn’t a smiling moon on the PPP’s side. The Constitution says MPs from dissolved parties can find a new camp within 60 days. It’s a simple and powerful legal wording and nowhere in the charter does it differentiate the status of constituency and party list MPs where party dissolution is concerned.
To add to that, simple maths shows Democrat leader Abhisit may have to keep on waiting. The three parties’ dissolution has left the government coalition with 283 MPs, comfortably above the majority mark of 224 lawmakers. And even if all coalition partners defected to the Democrat Party, such a government would make up only 228 MPs, just a slight edge over the 219-strong PPP. (These figures take party list MPs into account).
So, is the smiling moon looking a bit like the wolf now for some of you? A basically unchanged coalition government with Chalerm Yoobamrung as prime minister is anything but a heavenly gift. We have had Government House seized when Samak Sundaravej was prime minister and the Suvarnabhumi Airport paralysed after Somchai Wongsawat succeeded him, so take a wild guess what is around the corner if the Chalerm speculation turns out to be true.
Yet, with the possibility remaining strong that the executive power will rest on the same side, why did the People’s Alliance for Democracy celebrate as if it has won a total victory and promise to end its protests this morning? The seizure of the airport did not make sense, but the sudden “let’s go home” attitude was equally puzzling.
Don’t trust everything you see. Like the Monday night moon, the PAD and its enemy Thaksin Shinawatra possess double faces. And somehow, both have come to depend on each other in a strange way. The Suvarnabhumi shutdown, for example, has helped, more than harmed, Thaksin, and but for the Constitutional Court’s swift clearance of the three coalition parties, many bad things could have resulted from the inexplicable PAD action.
Is the parties’ dissolution the beginning of an end? Again, if you saw the smiling moon you may have hope in your heart. If it was a big bad wolf staring down coldly from the sky, you can be forgiven for thinking that this is far, far from over.
Amidst the gloomy political atmosphere, which has clouded the nation’s skies for days, a smiling moon rose on Monday evening to cheer Thai moods following several particularly depressing days, especially after the closure of Suvarnabhumi Airport which raised political temperatures to a new high.
The smiling moon showed its face at just the time when desperate Bangkokians need something, anything, to feel good about. Monday’s early evening spectacle was a rare phenomenon in which sunlight reflected back from the earth to the moon and vice versa. People around the world saw the waxing crescent moon with Venus and Jupiter forming the eyes of a smiley face in the night sky. Having checked the smiling face from several places around the world, Bangkokian is proud to say that the happy visage that Thais saw on Monday night was the best and clearest anywhere.
From 6pm to 8pm the spectacle could be seen in the southwest. Thais called their friends to tell them to look up at the sky. Some desperate Thais even took the phenomenon as a fortuitous omen. Some sent SMS messages to morning programmes remarking upon the beauty of the spectacle and urging political adversaries to come to their senses.
Astronomers call this rare phenomenon “earthshine” but Thais called it the “smiling moon”. We can take some comfort from the thought that the moon will always smile on Thailand while many countries are advising their citizens to stay away from us.
Thai astrologers were quick to interpret this rare phenomenon. Most saw it as a good sign. One, Pinyo Pongcharoen, predicted that the political situation should be resolved soon as the moon was aligned with good planets: Venus and Jupiter. Luk Raekhanites, a fortune-teller, said that the planets’ positions came at an auspicious time. Therefore, people should take this opportunity to show their compassion to each other.
Even Somchai Wongsawat, who saw the phenomenon in Chiang Mai, was optimistic. He said, “Today, even the moon is smiling at us. It shows that heaven is real.”