AMSTERDAM & PEROFF |
2011 GENERAL ELECTION REPORT SERIES, NO. 5 1
The Democrat Party and its allies have made a habit out of rationalizing electiondefeats by accusing the opposition of “fraud” and “vote buying.” Given thatthe Democrats have lost every election in the last decade, the explanationhas had to be proffered repeatedly. Aside from excusing their own poorperformance, the “vote buying” narrative has served important purposes forthe Democrats and the Thai Establishment. Accusations of systemic fraud have been used to devalue the outcomes of free elections, and with that underminethe legitimacy of elected governments and the entire democratic process. Themilitary coup of September 19, 2006 was explicitly justified on that basis,as was the subsequent dissolution of Thai Rak Thai in 2007. Weakening thepublic’s confidence in electoral democracy, moreover, allowed the generalsto write a new constitution that allowed the judiciary to intervene and makesweeping corrections to composition of parliament. It was through thesenew rules, introduced after the coup, that the Constitutional Court dissolvedthe then governing People Power Party and two of its coalition partners in2008. Some portions of Thailand’s Establishment, like the People’s Alliancefor Democracy, have gone so far as to demand that electoral democracy besuspended, based on the idea that electoral and legislative politics is taintedirreparably by corruption and fraud.Aside from justifying authoritarian measures to nullify the outcomes of elections, and limit the electorate’s freedom to vote for candidates of theirchoice, the Democrat Party has used the “vote-buying” narrative to set itself apart from the opposition, elevate itself to a higher moral position, and therefore justify to the country and the international community why a perennial loserof competitive elections should nonetheless be entitled to govern Thailand.Pressed hard by a BBC interviewer about his lack of an electoral mandate,Abhisit Vejjajiva volunteered this explanation for the event that made itpossible for him to rise to the office of Prime Minister— the dissolution of thePeople Power Party and two of its coalition partners:It was a hung parliament, they put together a majority, but theparty that had the biggest number of votes were involved inelection fraud, and therefore they were punished by law, lawsand rules that they were aware of when they actually signed onto take part in the election.
1. BBC, “Hardtalk,” April 27, 2010.