19 January 2008

“Joining the government won’t be a problem...”

Democracy Monument

The formation of a coalition government is now almost complete. Following the dissolution of Thai Rak Thai, it was reincarnated as the People Power Party, led by Samak Sundaravej, and the PPP won last month’s election though without an overall majority. Samak is now likely to become prime minister, taking over from Surayud Chulanont, who was appointed by the coup-makers. (The country also has a new constitution, as the the draft charter was endorsed by 57.81% of voters in last year’s referendum.)

Before the election, candidates and factions were grouping and regrouping on a daily basis, with seemingly no consideration of party ideology whatsoever. In the end, every other political party except the Democrats has joined in a PPP coalition. The final coalition partners, Puea Paendin and Chart Thai, announced their membership yesterday, after more than two weeks of negotiations; they had used the mourning period following the death of Princess Galyani to buy themselves more time. Chart Thai’s leader Banharn Silpaarcha announced that “joining the government won’t be a problem”.

The Supreme Court yesterday dismissed six cases against the PPP and the Election Commission of Thailand. The New Aspiration Party had alleged that the Commission was not authorised to organise absentee ballots and advanced voting before the election. Democrat candidate Chaiwat Sinsuwong claimed that the PPP was not legally allowed to contest the election, as it is a TRT nominee, Samak is a Thaksin proxy, and PPP candidates distributed Thaksin VCDs. All of these complaints have been dismissed by the Supreme Court. (The Democrats had earlier asked Chaiwat to withdraw his allegations, and he has now resigned from the party.)

The PPP’s last obstacle was Yongyuth Tiyaphairat, one of the party’s deputy leaders. He was among many PPP candidates accused of vote-buying, and he has been under ECT investigation. The ECT must endorse at least 95% of MPs before a new parliamentary term can begin. Thus, the ECT were under pressure to complete their vote-buying investigations as soon as possible. Fearing demonstrations from PPP supporters, the ECT delegated the Yongyuth investigation to a sub-committee. Then, when Yongyuth was invited to view the evidence against him (an incriminating VCD), he missed the appointment. However, Yongyuth has now received ECT endorsement. Indeed, the ECT rushed to endorse some twenty-nine candidates yesterday, in order to meet the deadline. (Previously, candidates had been endorsed in dribs and drabs, averaging three per day.)

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