People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD)’s coordinator Suriyasai Katasila talked to The Nation just hours before being named secretary-general of the new PAD party. He discusses the future of the new party and the PAD itself.
1.) How big do you expect the new party to become?
I think we have to start small, because a medium sized party would require 40 to 50 MPs. If we start big it would become a burden to the new party – rapid growth could lead to quick breakup. I think we will start with 20 to 30 MPs [in the lower house].
2) Will the PAD party’s stance be aligned to that of the Democrat Party?
If we stick to the New Politics idea, we must be ready to compete with the Democrat Party. We are hurt by [PAD] supporters who are with the Democrat Party. If democracy doesn’t change, our competitors would be all the other parties in Parliament. But strategically speaking, we must have the Democrat Party as an ally because the Thaksin order has still not been eradicated.
3) What is New Politics like? It has been widely criticised so far.
This is an important point. In the end, whether it’s new or not we must look at the policy of the party. We’re now listening to various sides, including [ideas] about economic policy which so far have been of an extreme capitalistic system [on part of the Thai government]. We do not wish to go into deep detail but our PAD spirit is to oppose the global capitalist system, with less reliance on the outside and greater self reliance. All free trade must be reviewed. We must work with local capital to lessen our dependence on foreign [capital]. These are the challenges.
4) What if the party fails to gain enough seats in Parliament and ends up having no power to push policy or negotiate. Will it simply be swallowed up?
This is the challenge of those sitting in Parliament. If the [party members] don’t feel attached it may be swallowed. The party and the [extra-parliament] movement must go hand in hand, unlike the Democratic Alliance Against Dictatorship (DAAD) which is not constructive.
As for the structure: we will adopt the system of the United Nations [Security] Council where there’s place for diversity. What we’re reviewing is how to allow the mass to direct the party. We went as far as to consider the possibility of having members in [rural] areas vote, but would reserve the right for final decision-making by the council in accordance with the wishes of local people. There will be a clear culture and rules outlined and it will be linked to the view of the mass.
5) How will you address the movement outside as well as inside Parliament – when some question why you still need to act outside parliament?
It depends on [specific] issues because the party cannot play outside Parliament on all issues, as we would face the question of legitimacy.
6) Is the PAD party similar to the former Palang Dhamma Party in the way that – if they’re dissatisfied with some issues in Parliament they will make a move outside?
It depends on the issue. If we can convince society then perhaps [the issue] can be worked on, but it will not have anything to do with personal agenda. It’s not as if people will simply show up if a stage is set. It depends on the issue. But we won’t be like sour losers inside Parliament who come out on the streets afterward.
7) Is there a possibility of conflict between party leaders and leaders of the PAD movement?
Possible – if their relationships are not efficient. Our members may end up selling themselves because they want to become MPs, so it is crucial to arrange proper relations between the party and the movement. MPs are not just answerable to the party but to the movement as well. I think today the PAD must become strong. This is not just nice words – but we must trust in the power of the people.
8) Are there any measures to convince us that the PAD can remove a minister, even before the person is proven guilty?
I’m not sure if the party’s rule will stipulate that – but I want review to be placed with the party and not the movement. It will not be a reshuffle for benefits but if a minister is deemed as corrupt then the power must be given to the party executive board. There must be a mechanism within the party to deal with such a [wayward] MP or minister.
9) How long will you take for the party to mature?
I think we must start small but be firm. It we think like this, it won’t take long. It’s realistic to say we will gain three to five seats after the election. Then we may grow into a middle-sized party – but with long-term power and credibility in order to make politics more reliable.
10) There were reports that some have withdrawn from the party because they felt the party was leaning towards socialism.
I think the majority of the criticism was that we’re right wing. But it’s true that some people said the PAD party is socialist, which is impossible, because the truth is the PAD is middle class. I don’t think the PAD went as far as to become socialist. There may be leftists within the movement but they are reformist leftists who think the struggle must be in Parliament or peaceful.
11) Some see the PAD’s role is to strengthen people’s politics. Will this be weakened now that it’s entering party politics?
I have been with the people’s movement for more than a decade. I think the people’s sector has grown a lot and is increasing. I think the PAD’s becoming a party could only make it more vibrant and provide more venues for people in politics. In reality, the past three years saw only the PAD representing people’s politics. With the party, we can now link up to more people.
12) Where will the candidates come from?
We’re trying to create a new group of people; we’re looking into various occupational sectors. A call for meetings for those in specific occupations may be made and – though it may sound complicated – we will strengthen such a structure.
13) Will you file candidates in all areas?
It’s not necessary. Perhaps in the initial contest we’ll need to file candidates in all districts in order to gauge how much electoral support we have. Our goal is in Central region, Bangkok and surrounding areas. Work at local levels such as tambon administrative councils or provincial administrative councils will also be introduced.
14) The PAD will become more like an alliance with the party, rather than someone to scrutinise the party?
The PAD should be the scrutiniser but on some issues it can be in alliance. It’s not like the party would force all PAD supporters to become members. We must allow room for those who do not agree with the party to feel comfortable joining the people’s sector movement. Financial matters and donations should also be separated [between party and PAD]. But strategically speaking, we must move together all the time.
15) There are 20 million ASTV viewers, so how many party members do you expect?
Around five million. Anything lower than that is considered a failure.