Slowly Forward for Thailand’s Future Forward Party?


Partyforumseasia: Thailand’s ruling coalition under ex-general Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha may have carefully observed the two recent examples in the immediate neighbourhood: The bad one in Malaysia, where PM Najib Razak was defeated by the opposition and is facing 42 counts of breach of trust and money laundering in court. The other neighbour, PM Hun Sen in Cambodia, has simply eclipsed the opposition and the threat of losing the next election by asking the constitutional court to dissolve the Cambodia National Rescue Party.
Starting after the March 2019 election in Thailand with the proverbial wafer thin majority of his coalition with altogether 19 parties, some of them with one seat only, the Prime Minister did not hesitate to weaken the opposition. The first victim was Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, leader of the Future Forward Party, the youngest and surprisingly third strongest party winning 81 seats in parliament,  behind Pheu Thai with 136 seats, and PM Prayut’s Palang Pracharath Party with 116. Future Forward was a big success among the younger generation, and its leader Thanatorn, a 41-year-old auto part and media tycoon, is most popular. A poll published by Thailand’s National Institute of Development Administration (NIDA) beginning of January, saw Thanathorn and his party as the most promising next Prime Minister and FFP as ruling party, which must have been an alarm signal for the Prayut-Government. Thanathorn lost his mandate for several technicalities prohibited by the Election Commission and was disqualified by the Constitutional Court already in November 2019, but the next hit was already coming:

A lawyer had filed a complaint against Future Forward for trying to FFP logooverthrow the monarchy, and (sic!) alleged that the party is linked to the Illuminati, an occult group seeking world domination. The FFP logo, he argued, looks suspiciouly similar to the Illuminatis’ all seeing eye…

Fortunately for its own and the image of Thailand, the Constitutional Court, yesterday, 21st January, dismissed both allegations. The party was not dissolved, but should be cautious. Immediately after the acquittal, jubilant supporters were chanting “Future Forward Party, fight, fight! Gen Prayut, get out! Dictatorship collapse, long live democracy.’’ The government and the military-monarchist bloc won’t like and won’t forget that.

                                                                                                  Wolfgang Sachsenröder

 

Thai elections still haunted by Thaksin – Constitutional Court dissolves Thai Raksa Chart Party


Partyforumseasia: Calling it election fever would be an understatement. The long-anticipated general election on 24th March is stirring up emotions like never before in the country’s colorful election history. And, no surprise, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha, who is seeking election (since he assumed the premiership by ousting Yingluck Shinawatra in 2014 it can not be called re-election) is preparing the ground to prevent a surge of the surviving and diversified Thaksin-loyalists surviving predominantly in the Pheu Thai Party, the third incarnation of the plutocrat’s original Thai Rak Thai Party.
The Nation daily published a survey of the election chances on 6th March, which forecasts Pheu Thai as the biggest possible winner:

Nation survey

The survey focuses on the 350 constituency seats in the mixed-member proportional system and does not include the possible results of the 150 party-list members. This new electoral system has been designed to limit the chances of bigger parties to dominate the 500-seat lower house. But party strategists know how to play the piano even if it is not tuned to provide a level playing field. The Thai Raksa Chart Party, founded by many Pheu Thai politicians only four months ago, was therefore widely seen as a mechanism to add party-list seats to Pheu Thai.
These dreams have been shattered yesterday, 7th March, by the decision of the Bolratana 2Constitutional Court to dissolve the party with immediate effect. The surprise move of nominating Princess Ubolratana as a prime ministerial candidate turned out to be too risky a strategy. The court deemed it unconstitutional because it abused the Royalty, supposed to be above politics,  for electoral advantage. To make sure that they don’t find another loophole, the 13 members of the TRC executive committee have been banned from politics for the next ten years.

Nervousness about a deeply divided electorate is rather understandable and only the third place in the Nation survey for the Phalang Pracharat Party which supports Prime Minister Prayut must irritate the military camp. Interesting as well are the continuing regional party preferences, the Thaksin camp still dominating in the North and North East, and the Democrat Party equally dominating Bangkok and the South. The real question will come up after the votes will be counted, when coalitions will be needed to form a majority in the lower house. The incompatibilities seem to be clearly visible at the moment, but parties and politicians have shown extreme flexibility in the past when the spoils of ministerial power are being up for grabs.