Promised election won't cure multiple conflicts
We are due to have a general election in December of this year barring unforeseen circumstances.
Prime Minister General Surayud Chulanont has tentatively proposed two dates - the 16th and 23rd - for eligible voters to decide the future and fate of the country.
Politicians of their choosing, elected through true or blind faith, will seek a majority to form a new government that will prove whether Thailand is condemned to bear gutter politics or whether the country is due for time-consuming improvements after all.
Is Surayud's promise of an election time designed to cool down political tempers fanned by activists and dissenting groups hostile to the Council for National Security (CNS) and the government? Quite so apparently, but nobody can claim credit for reading the mind of the prime minister, who obviously has his own game plan.
The move might serve his purpose and desire if activists and protesters are satisfied that they now know when they will be casting their ballots, though there is yet no clear sign that we have completed political reforms and that all is ready for another re-launch of democracy.
The problem is that the call for the general election is seen as an excuse to stage protest rallies and heap abusive words on the CNS and the government. Members of the PTV crew, who just recently switched from their political careers under the Thai Rak Thai Party, certainly do not want only an election. They want their patron, Thaksin Shinawatra, now in exile, and his family to be freed from criminal prosecution.
The protest rally at City Hall on Friday became uglier when an activist group launched a campaign to seek the ouster of Privy Council President General Prem Tinsulanonda from the Privy Council. This has become a heated issue - so much so that other groups, including the PTV crew, have distanced themselves from the campaign.
This is a high-risk pursuit, not just a high-stakes one. Messing with Prem, a man of high stature, could enrage his admirers. It could also endanger the entire campaign and is seen as Thaksin's scheme to get even with the man whom he thinks was behind the military coup to oust him. Thaksin is no fan of General Prem. During his visit to Australia, his unkind remarks about Prem were recorded and sent through e-mails, making it difficult for him to have any chance for a home-coming anytime soon.
The rally featured many familiar faces known as staunch supporters of Thaksin. PTV crew members continued to hold the stage for long tirades, attacking the military junta while strangely sparing General Surayud, making people wonder whether the ex-politicians intended to drive a wedge into the shaky relationship between the CNS and the government.
Worries that the rally would attract tens of thousands of people were unfounded. The PTV crew and its allies have not been able to attract people of high standing and credibility to join their campaign. Besides, the issues they were lamenting and their attempt to assist Thaksin were for their own interests.
Now that Thaksin's wife and brother-in-law have been charged in court with tax evasion and face long and troublesome legal problems, PTV crew members have to work harder to try to end the joint rule of the CNS and the Surayud government, so that politicians can change the course of legal matters once they retake public office.
The PTV crew will have to work harder to come up with more imaginative strategies so that they can elicit more supporting funds, while trying not to overstep the line drawn by the CNS and the government.
As for General Surayud, he seems to be content with being able to control the game and the political momentum while maintaining his own stand and not appearing to be under the influence of the CNS. His trump card is that if push comes to shove he can quickly resign and put the blame on the CNS, or stay put while seeking public support against any attempt to usher him out.
As of now, there is still time for all parties in these multiple conflicts to maintain their positions, while plotting new moves. It is still the prime responsibility of General Surayud to ensure that he keeps his promise for the election in December.
That means the constitution now being drafted will be completed and processed through the National Legislative Assembly with other arrangements allowing political parties to resume their activities. This is going to be difficult, now that many articles and stipulations of the draft constitution will be subject to heated debates.
There is still another boiling point. Will the Constitution Tribunal decide to dissolve the Thai Rak Thai Party, the Democrat Party, or both to re-launch democracy with a clean slate? If so, it would be a very eventful, if not troublesome, period leading to the election.
There is another serious task for Surayud to fulfil. He must succeed, or appear to be successful, in guiding and restoring the national economy away from what surely has to be seen as a slowdown, if not a long slump, which has caused hardship for all.