03 December 2008

Thailand: Dissidents Against Democracy?

The more I read about the "People's Alliance for Democracy," the group that occupied Thai airports in an ultimately superfluous attempt to force the country's prime minister out of office, the more the name, at least as it's rendered in English, strikes me as Orwellian. This account seems to be representative of what they think, and they think that Thailand has too much democracy. They remind me of some American conservatives, only with the guts to demand what they really believe. The PAD thinks that some folks are just too dumb to vote. As usual when that sort of complaint is voiced, the proof is that the dumb people vote against the presumably smarter party. The rural dummies supported Thaksin Shinawatra, a communications mogul who ran and governed as a charismatic populist, and so was accused of being a "demagogue." I equated him with Silvio Berlusconi yesterday, but there's probably a little Hugo Chavez in him, too. People like that are always potentially (though not automatically) a threat to constitutional democracy, but that's true at all times and in all places, including here in the U.S. The remedy is never to roll back democracy itself, as the "people's alliance" proposes, and especially not to adopt some sort of caste-based voting system, as the PAD specifically proposes.

On the other hand, I do somewhat like the idea of the courts being able to disband political parties for election violations. That would seem to be a check on the entrenchment of anything resembling an American Bipolarchy, and if the decision that ended the airport crisis was typical, it seems fair to voters by eliminating the parties but not (in most cases) the politicians. It's expected that the remnants of Thaksin's movement will quickly form a new party, but apart from their personal expertise they'll presumably enjoy no advantages from entrenched power, and maybe they'll learn not to perpetrate election frauds. If an American court tried something like that it'd be a constitutional crisis, but the Thais will probably just move on to the next round of their geographic and class struggles. It remains a country worth watching.

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