Opinion – Flip-flopping politicians look at their own vested interests

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With general elections slated to take place less than 8-months from today the deliberation on the methodology of what rules would be applied for the elections is yet to be decided by members of parliament (MPs) and the government of 2014 coup leader General Prayut Chan-o-cha.

Whatever the outcome would be of August 9 and 10 deliberations in parliament, one thing is assured, which is that the division of the party-list MPs by 100 is the most beneficial for the country.

Although the division of the party list MPs by 100 is the most beneficial for the country, most political parties in Thailand have been flip-flopping on the issue of the division number depending on what is in their best interest.

The issue of the division by 100 or 500 has been the million-dollar question that the coalition parties have been unable to conclude because it is in their best interest to have more MPs which they will be able to get if the division is by 500.

Under the rules of the 500 division, bigger parties such as Pheu Thai, will most likely be unable to get any party-list seats, similar to the situation it faced in the March 2019 election. This methodology also helped smaller parties to get seats in parliament.

These smaller parties have been the source of strength for General Prayut as there have been reports that ‘bananas’ were being distributed to keep these smaller parties happy and to continue their support for his administration, even though these parties know very well that the country is in the dogs because of mismanagement of the General.

100 – Most Beneficial

The reason why using 100 would benefit the country the most is simply because it would lessen the amount of bribing of the smaller parties. It would also be in line with the calls by Gen. Prayut and his gang of getting rid of ‘corruption’, an excuse that was used as the key reason for the putsch to power by the then Army Chief – Gen. Prayut, against the Pheu Thai lead government.

The junta-drafted charter that was passed in a referendum on August 7, 2016, was designed to prevent any one party from gaining an outright majority in parliament where the only option to form a government would be through the formation of a coalition.

Most of the power holders in this country are appointed, not elected, so they hate to see any single political party or elected politician from gaining too much popularity.

If there was no amendment, the junta-drafted charter and its electoral rules would have continued to benefit small parties.

However, on June 25, 2021, the junta-backed government of Gen. Prayut agreed with the Democrat party’s move to amend the electoral system which was changed from a single ballot system to the current two ballot system with 400 constituency MPs (up from 350 in the 2019 elections) and 100 party-list MPs (down from 150 during 2019 elections). The method to calculate the list-MP was also set at 100 which is the total number of lit MPs.

Greed & Fading Popularity

The junta agreed back in 2021 to amend the charter because when the amendment was made, they were sure that no matter what, they would still be in government with 250 junta-appointed senators on their side.

But that all changed when Prayut’s popularity continue to drop after the economic downturn following the Covid-19 pandemic and Pheu Thai started to gain traction with their dream of a landslide victory strategy to winning more than 250 MP seats is becoming more of a reality.

This led the ruling Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) to hastily push for another amendment of the electoral rule to use 500 to calculate the number of list MP instead of 100.

A calculation by 100 would greatly benefit Pheu Thai.

If 500 is used, small parties will get MPs and the PPRP will continue to be able to bribe them.

Nevertheless, the amendment which passed its second reading on July 6 is now hitting a big snag with the opposition threatening to ask the Constitutional Court to rule on its validity, with members of the coalition agreeing with the move to involve the Constitutional Court’s verdict.

Seeing that this move is pretty much dead in the water, the junta is now trying to revert back to the single ballot system that they originally intended.

Greed is why the PPRP is flip-flopping around between one or two ballots or 100 or 500 calculation methods.

They are doing it to make sure that the junta can continue to be in power and they can continue to reap personal benefits under the corrupt military-backed government.

Move Forward’s Stance

What I do not understand is why the Move Forward Party was doing the same thing by following the footsteps of the PPRP in flip-flopping their standpoint on the issue.

The opposition party insisted many times that they have been supporting the use of 100 as the calculation method but then they voted on the side of 500 during the second reading of the bill in the parliament on July 6, 2022.

Move Forward is a small party so using 500 would definitely benefit them, which begged the question whether they are just appearing to support the 100 method on paper while raising their hands and voting for 500 to benefit themselves or not.

The party will get another try at the third reading of the amendment bill and if they continue to vote for the 500 methodology, then they better have a better explanation to voters on why their hands were not voting where their mouth is.

Move Forward party’s leader Pita Limjaroenrat

The third reading is set for August 9 and 10, after which the parliament will go on a recess and if the bill is not passed by August 15 the bill will automatically be discarded and the use of 100 would then be the default methodology for the 2023 polls.

But what the Move Forward party needs to do is to make sure where it wants to stand because if they continue to flip flop for their own benefit, then the stigma of vested interest in politics would stick with this party into the next elections and the Move Forward party will become part of the system that it has so hard fought to change over the past couple of years.

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