Unfortunately, the gullible are in abundance. They are those who mistakenly believe Pheu Thai is synonymous with democracy, and any criticism of it would mean you are a fascist, elitist coup supporter who hates democracy. Personally, I’m only lukewarm about democracy, but everyone should hate stupidity.
A mature democracy requires good governance and proper check and balance mechanisms. In a fascist or feudal system, governance is arbitrary and mechanisms are self-serving. Family control of politics is by nature feudalistic. It invites nepotism and cronyism. It’s a platform for corruption.
Here we are not talking about three Kennedys in an arguably mature democracy like the United States – please doubly note the word arguably. Rather, we are talking about endemic family-controlled politics in the indisputably, unarguably and completely without doubt immature democracy that is Thailand.
A report by King Prajadhipok’s Institute says that Thailand tops the world in the number of political dynasties. This is specifically regarding to those inheriting political power from family members. The study tells us that in the most recent general election, July 3, 2011, 42% of MPs elected were replacing other family members. Of the major political parties, the ruling Pheu Thai government has 19 families, while the opposition Democrats have 17.
Elsewhere, political dynasties account for 40% in Mexico, 37% in the Philippines, 33% in Japan, 10% in Argentina and 6% in the US.
Other than Mexico and the Philippines, where corruption and nepotism are well publicised, Japan has a high percentage of political dynasties – however, looking at other variables and arguably, its politics is also known for efficiency and integrity. Two words that no one in their right mind could apply to the 80 years of Thai democracy, unarguably. As such, we should differentiate the cases.
On Monday, Thirayuth Boonmi, a student leader who steered the student movement in a struggle for democracy that culminated on Oct 14, 1973, gave a keynote speech to commemorate the event.
He made a strong point in that the crisis of Thai democracy is the lack of good governance and proper mechanisms. Let me add that these are also two things the entire 80 years of Thai democracy have lacked.
Here we revisit the draft constitutional amendment on how senators are selected championed by the Pheu Thai government. It has both virtue and flaw.
The virtue is democracy, in that under the proposal all senators should come from elections, by the people and for the people. In practical terms, it depends on the integrity of individual senators.
On the other hand, the flaw is feudalism in the provision that family members of MPs, as well as former MPs, are eligible to stand for the Senate. In practical terms, the feudal characteristic of by-the-family and for-the-family arises.
It is true that many democracies around the world need not safeguard against family politics. But this is because nepotism, cronyism and corruption are the exception, not endemic, in those countries. The same cannot be said for Thailand.
This is not to say there should be no families in politics at all. Rather, we should note the gulf, the difference, between an exception and endemic.
Feudal democracy characterises the Thai Senate in both the past and the present, where 77 are elected and 73 are appointed. At the same time, the new system proposed by Pheu Thai is but another face of feudal democracy, where all may be elected, but family control is invited.
Still, Pheu Thai encourages this plague knowing that its savvy election marketing campaign can exploit the system. This is no better than the Democrats trying to keep the system of appointed senators, knowing that it doesn’t have the effective election marketing campaign to exploit the system.
Thailand already has democracy. The fact is, our democracy in an immature little devil because we lack the good governance, the proper mechanisms to check, correct and balance, to foster and nurture.
We all should wake up and smell the feudalism. Urge Pheu Thai to go ahead with the all-elected Senate plan. Demand that it hit delete on family control. Don’t be fooled.
Gullible tribal members on both sides of the political divide will help keep this democracy immature. Fortunately, there’s a cure for gullibility. It’s called wisdom. Unfortunately, it comes at a high price, self-awareness.