Partyforumseasia: As the saying goes, the difference between optimists and pessimists is, that the pessimist is often better informed. All optimism, guesses, and hopes vanished Friday afternoon, when Thailand’s Constitutional Court dissolved the Future Forward Party (FFP) and banned eleven of its leaders from politics for ten years. With the support of 70 % of the first-time voters, the young party had won 81 seats in the 2019 election, but some MPs had switched to other parties in the meantime. After the dissolution, the 64 remaining parliamentarians have 60 days to join another party if they want to maintain their mandate. In Thailand’s very special political culture with its extremely volatile party system, FFP could well reinvent itself and reincarnate under a different name. That happened already twice to exiled former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s party which was dissolved twice and emerged as the second biggest party last year under a new name.
The unrelented attacks on Future Forward after the unexpected election success do not come as a surprise. For the initially wafer-thin Majority of Prime Minister Prayuth chan-o-cha’s ruling coalition and the conservative Thai establishment, the young party is obviously a threat to the fragile political stability. Whether the suppression approach is wise or not, it also reveals a military mindset behind. Enemies have to be crushed decisively, and the two reincarnations and continuing success of the Thaksin parties are a warning not to be too lenient.
How did the Constitutional Court justify the dissolution?
In December last year, the Election Commission (EC) had requested the Court to disband Future Forward, because it had accepted a loan of 191 m THB (approx. 6 m USD) from its billionaire leader Thanatorn Juangroongruangkit. The cited section 62 of the Organic Law on Political Parties does not mention loans among the list of legitimate sources of funding, but it does not exclude them as illegal either. The Constitutional Court, anyway, followed the EC and dissolved the party. The reactions in the domestic debate are rather blunt. The Bangkok Post, on Friday, related that a least 32 political parties had funded parts of their election campaigns with loans, adding that there is a long list of cases showing the incompetence and partiality of the EC, and that its reputation has arrived at the lowest possible point. Other critics from the academia denounce party dissolution as just another form of coup d’état.
22 February 2020 by Wolfgang Sachsenröder