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  • Writer's pictureGeopolitics.Λsia

Interregnum and the Dawn of the Democratic Era in Thailand

Updated: Jul 31, 2023

The Move Forward Party (MFP) coalition is set to meet at Bangkok's Conrad Hotel this Monday. The party, a fusion of eight political factions, is gathering to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that provides a roadmap for collaboration. It proposes a multi-pronged approach to tackle Thailand's simmering political, economic, and social crises.

One thorny issue is the contentious Section 112, Thailand's lese majeste law. This legal provision has sown discord among coalition partners. However, the MFP has tactically decided to set it aside for later parliamentary discussion, conveniently excluding it from their debut 100-day action plan.

Notwithstanding internal disagreements, the prospective partners present a united front when it comes to leadership. The coalition endorses MFP's Pita Limcharoenrat as the next prime minister. This follows hot on the heels of the party's recent electoral triumph. It is worth noting that today, May 22, 2023, carries significant symbolism for the so-called "democratic force". This date marks the anniversary of Thailand's 2014 coup, a bitter memory etched in the country's political history. It is a poignant reminder of past struggles, an echo of previous regimes, and an emblem for the resistance against military coups. For those who consider themselves to be guardians of democracy, today's anniversary will serve as a symbolic landmark for their efforts.

It's important to address journalists' queries about the rumor surrounding the potential dissolution of the Palang Pracharat Party. This rumor speculates that its leader, Gen Pravit Wongsuwan, may quit and rally its members to join the Phue Thai Party, thereby increasing their vote count to more than 180 seats. This would surpass the Move Forward Party and position them to compete in forming the government. However, the leader of the Phue Thai Party, Dr. Chonlanan Srikaew, has categorically denied these reports.

Another significant development involves pressure from the left wing on the Move Forward Party to advocate for reforms of the lese majeste law, Article 112. In response, right-wing factions are mobilizing to protest against such attempts. Some senators have made the reform of Article 112 a condition for endorsing Pita as Prime Minister. Despite this, several senators have already declared their endorsement of Pita as PM. Backed by recent 313 votes, Pita needs an additional 63 votes to reach the threshold of 376 votes required from both the parliament and senate. Given their strong recent pact, the coalition's current tactic may involve casting multiple votes for Pita as PM, thereby pressuring the public into viewing the senate as the source of annoyance.

Details encapsulated in the MOU encompass 23 key points and 5 consensus agreements are as follows:

  1. Prioritize the restoration of democracy, including the drafting of a new constitution as swiftly as possible. This process will involve members of the Constituent Assembly, who are directly elected by the people.

  2. Endorse and pass the Marriage Equality Act to ensure marriage rights for couples of all genders. This will not infringe upon the religious beliefs of those who may find it inconsistent with their principles.

  3. Advocate for the reformation of the bureaucratic system, police, military, and judiciary, aligning these institutions with democratic principles. Emphasize transparency, modernity, efficiency, and prioritizing the best interest of the people.

  4. Transition from compulsory military service to a voluntary system, though retaining the option of conscription during times of war.

  5. Promote sustainable peacebuilding processes in the southern border provinces, ensuring respect for human rights principles, multicultural coexistence, and participation from all sectors. This includes a review of agency missions and law enforcement regarding security matters.

  6. Champion decentralization in terms of mission and budget, empowering localities to address the needs of their residents efficiently and without corruption.

  7. Tackle corruption by fostering a transparent state system and culture. This will involve public disclosure of information across all departments.

  8. Contribute to economic recovery by adhering to the principle of increasing public income, reducing inequality, and creating a fair growth-oriented economic system.

  9. Revamp laws pertaining to livelihoods and the welfare of the people, such as curtailing, reducing, or temporarily suspending unnecessary permissions and obstacles to progress. Provide financial liquidity support and assistance for SMEs while emphasizing SME GDP growth, bolstering the industry, and strengthening Thai products to compete on a global scale.

  10. Abolish monopolies and promote fair trade competition across all industries, including alcoholic beverages. The Prachachart Party retains the right to object solely on religious grounds regarding alcohol.

  11. Complete land reform by pushing for a fair land reform law, resolving the issues of overlapping forest boundaries and state lands with people's lands, and revisiting cases resulting from the forest reclamation policy.

  12. Improve the structure of electricity production, price calculation, and optimal production capacity to decrease living costs and enhance energy security.

  13. Establish a new budget with a focus on zero-based budgeting.

  14. Develop a welfare system that caters to everyone from newborns to the elderly, considering long-term fiscal sustainability.

  15. Address drug issues with urgency.

  16. Reintroduce marijuana to the list of narcotics through an announcement by the Ministry of Public Health. Regulate and support the usage of marijuana.

  17. Encourage safe agricultural and livestock practices, safeguarding farmers' interests. This involves reducing production costs, promoting marketing, access to technology and water resources, strengthening farmers' collectives for production planning and rights protection, and fostering the agricultural product processing industry for economic value creation.

  18. Amend fishery laws to remove obstacles, heal, restore, and develop sustainable fishing careers.

  19. Elevate the rights of workers across all professions to ensure fair employment conditions and wages that align with the cost of living and economic growth.

  20. Enhance the public health system to ensure access to quality public health services, encompassing prevention, treatment, and health restoration.

  21. Reform the education system to enhance quality, decrease inequality, and foster lifelong learning.

  22. Facilitate cooperation within and between nations to address toxic dust issues, striving to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions to zero as soon as possible.

  23. Implement foreign policy that re-establishes Thailand's leadership role in ASEAN in accordance with various cooperation frameworks, especially the multilateral one, and maintaining political equilibrium between Thailand and major powers.

All parties have agreed to jointly manage the country in the following ways:

  1. All parties will uphold the civil and political rights of all people.

  2. All parties will operate with integrity. If anyone from any party is found engaging in dishonest or corrupt behavior, all parties will immediately terminate that individual's position.

  3. Every party will respect each other, display sincerity, and support one another's work, prioritizing the interests of the people above any individual party's interests.

  4. Each party retains the right to formulate additional policies, provided they do not conflict with the policies outlined in this MOU and align with the executive authority of the ministers representing each political party.

  5. Every party reserves the right to establish further policies, as long as they do not contradict the policies in this memorandum and respect the legislative power of the representatives of each political party.


Analyzing Election Behavior through Data Analytics

To ascertain whether vote-buying is an efficient tactic in Thailand General Election 2023, we used the Move Forward Party (MFP) as a reverse indicator. The rationale behind this approach is that the MFP reportedly does not engage in vote-buying, according to former PM Chuan Leekpai. Therefore, a significant correlation between the MFP's electoral success in wealthier provinces, versus poorer ones, could suggest that vote buying plays a role in election outcomes.

However, our statistical analysis using Machine Learning models and techniques such as ANOVA and multiple regression did not establish a strong correlation between the percentage of MFP's MPs and the GDP per capita by province. This finding does not support the initial hypothesis that vote-buying significantly impacts electoral success. As such, our study suggests that vote-buying might not be an efficient tactic, at least in the context of the elections examined.

Key Findings:

  • The Random Forest model, which we used to predict the percentage of Move Forward Party's MPs based on GDP per capita, showed poor performance.

  • Correlation analysis revealed a weak positive correlation between the percentage of Move Forward Party’s MPs and GDP per capita (correlation coefficient: 0.148, p-value: 0.198). However, the correlation was not statistically significant.

  • The ANOVA test, comparing the means of the percentage of Move Forward Party’s MPs across different GDP per capita groups, yielded a non-significant result (F-statistic: 0.698, p-value: 0.501).

  • Multiple regression analysis showed a weak relationship, with a small coefficient for GDP per capita (coefficient: 0.0095). The intercept was close to zero, indicating limited predictive power.

All indicators suggest that while some reports indicate that vote buying may occur in certain areas, particularly with constituency votes outnumbering party list votes in dual ballots, relying solely on vote buying isn't an efficient strategy. Our findings don't establish a significant relationship between the percentage of Move Forward Party’s MPs and GDP per capita. The ML models and statistical tools did not offer strong evidence to support our initial assumption. It's probable that other factors not accounted for in our analysis have a strong influence on the percentage of Move Forward Party’s MPs in each province.

Contrarily, the "Social Media Analytics" report from the Digital Election Analytic Lab (DEAL) suggests that social media has played a significant role in shaping political discourse in Thailand. It further implies that it might have substantially influenced voter behavior in elections.

Future research could explore additional datasets, incorporate more features, and consider other socio-political and cultural factors that may affect political dynamics. It's essential to adopt a comprehensive approach and exercise caution when drawing conclusions about the relationship between political representation and economic indicators.

This report underscores the need for a nuanced understanding of political dynamics, taking into account multiple factors that contribute to electoral outcomes.



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