Features

A revival of Thai democracy?

Thailand’s election will be flawed, but it’s a step forward. Matthew Partridge reports.

939-Thais-634

"Nearly five years after Thailand's 2014 military coup, the populist movement that the army has overthrown twice in a decade is contesting an election on Sunday that its leaders say is rigged against it," says Reuters. There are 81 parties competing, but "the race has shaped up as one between Pheu Thai and allies versus the pro-army Palang Pracharat party that nominated Prayuth Chano--Cha as prime minister".

The election is a continuation of the rivalry that has resulted in the military intervening twice, in 2006 to oust Thaksin Shinawatra after he won a second term, and again in 2014 to topple a government that had been led by his sister, Yingluck.

Subscribe to MoneyWeek

Become a smarter, better informed investor with MoneyWeek.

Three main choices

Still, the former will have some impact since "lagging wages, a precarious job market and falling commodities prices have made the daily struggle to get by a key concern, and major parties are wooing voters with promises of cash handouts, farm subsidies,small-business tax breaks and other benefits".

Thaksin's party and the military junta may not be the only choices on offer, says Shibani Mahtani in The Washington Post. The Future Forward Party led by "suave billionaire" Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit offers an opportunity to break the "seemingly endless loop" of "coups and corruption charges".

Advertisement
Advertisement - Article continues below

The scion of a billionaire family, Thanathorn has drawn comparisons to the French president, Emmanuel Macron, and has "quickly acquired a growing cult following among the young urbanites of Bangkok". His movement is seen as "politically naive and lacking support outside urban areas", but his party could benefit from tactical voting by former supporters of the banned Thai Raksa Chart party.

Sham elections

"The army has virtually guaranteed that it will hold on to power." And "even if anti-junta parties scrape together a majority, a judiciary and election commission loyal to the army could block the formation of a civilian-led government or appointment of a new prime minister".

It's true that the elections are a long way from being "free and fair" by Asian, let alone Western, standards, says Kiat Sittheeamorn in The Diplomat, and seem designed to make sure that the junta wins whatever happens. Still, it would be a mistake to give up on them. History shows that "we should make use of every democratic opening no matter how limited to push toward a more democratic direction". The large number of first-time voters means that "these elections may just surprise us".

Advertisement

Recommended

Visit/519858/how-long-can-the-good-times-roll
Economy

How long can the good times roll?

Despite all the doom and gloom that has dominated our headlines for most of 2019, Britain and most of the rest of the developing world is currently en…
19 Dec 2019
Visit/504252/brace-yourself-the-global-economy-might-be-healthier-than-it-looks
Economy

Brace yourself – the global economy might be healthier than it looks

Investors have been worried about a global recession since the start of the year. But the latest indicators suggest things might not be so bad. John S…
2 Apr 2019
Visit/501578/the-charts-that-matter-the-powell-put-is-in-place
Economy

The charts that matter: the Powell put is in place

The Federal Reserve has done not so much a U-turn as a handbrake turn on monetary policy this week. John Stepek looks at how that’s affected the globa…
2 Feb 2019
Visit/520380/investors-neednt-fear-the-rise-of-europes-green-parties
EU Economy

Investors needn’t fear the rise of Europe’s green parties

Green parties across Europe are finding the centre-right to be natural allies. That will be great for business, says Matthew Lynn.
12 Jan 2020

Most Popular

Visit/520525/currency-corner-how-high-can-the-pound-go-against-the-euro-in-2020
Currencies

Currency Corner: how high can the pound go against the euro in 2020?

In the month in which we should finally leave the European Union, Dominic Frisby takes a look at the pound vs the euro and asks just how high sterling…
13 Jan 2020
Visit/investments/property/house-prices/600638/uk-house-prices-may-be-heading-for-a-boris-bounce
House prices

UK house prices may be heading for a Boris bounce

The latest survey of estate agents and surveyors from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors is "unambiguously positive" – suggesting house pric…
16 Jan 2020
Visit/economy/600632/money-minute-friday-17-january-uk-weakness-likely-to-continue
Economy

Money Minute Friday 17 January: UK weakness likely to continue

Today's Money Minute previews UK retail sales figures the UK, inflation data from Europe and industrial production from the US.
17 Jan 2020
Visit/520598/money-minute-thursday-16-january-a-batch-of-company-results
Economy

Money Minute Thursday 16 January: a batch of company results

Today's Money Minute looks ahead to results from a host of UK companies, plus the latest unemployment figures from the US.
15 Jan 2020