January 5, 2009

Four Elections and a Coup

Crediting Historical Figures.

The Australian Journal of International Affairs has provided free access to my article,"Four Elections and a Coup".

Written before the Constitution Court's dissolution of the pro-Thaksin People's Power Party (PPP) it covers three main areas: the pro-Thaksin side, the People's Allliance for Democracy (PAD), and the issue of the monarchy.

In general I see the events of last year as confirmation of the contingent pacting between liberals and statists against Thaksin (discussed in the post below). I see the struggle as primarily one over regime form, and do not consider that the statist, conservative and liberal elites primarily pacted against Thaksin because of pro-poor policies.

It is generally agreed that the military exerted pressure to break up the PPP led- coalition. However, I do not see a co-ordinated conspiracy against Thaksin that links the PAD, the ECT, the military, the courts, the palace or "network monarchy" and the Democrat Party. Each element has worked against Thaksin and the pro-Thaksin forces, but with different means and towards different objectives, and in ways that may well be antagonistic to other anti-Thaksin forces.

I previously flagged the idea of a Bonapartist solution - one that disarms the "extremes" of both camps and rules above contending forces. It will be interesting to see whether legal cases against the PAD leadership (representing the anti-Thaksin extremity) will proceed. Of course, a Democrat Party led government, no matter how it came to power, is not quite a Bonapartist solution despite Aphisit's suggestions that PAD will be dealt with according to law. The current situation signals the accomplishment of PAD's key objective of removing the pro-Thaksin government (however tentatively).

Moreover, should that objective actually be realised in the medium term (there being no parliamentary re-alignment) PAD in its militant form would most likely disappear. And should the Democrat led government survive, one can expect that PAD's "new politics" will become the detritus of an unlikely circumstance that momentarily saw individual military figures, ultra-nationalists/royalists and democracy activists work together. Perhaps think of "new politics" as a kind of mutating political offspring generated by the pragmatism and opportunism of those who were willing to use any means to beat Thaksin.

Their struggle, among many others, has not returned Thailand to the politics of semi-democracy of the 1980s, nor has it returned it to the politics of the 1990s, when liberal politics and polyarchic democracy were ascendant, nor the mid-2000s of Thaksin's emergent authoritarianism. Having so often suggested that some resolution was close at hand in this epic struggle, I'll desist such a position now.

It appears that the mythic conflation of Thaksinism and democracy (speaking of another mutating political offspring) is going to be around for a while yet - such a powerful myth is socially grounded in the electoral dispossession experienced after the coup, in the social and economic policies of the Thaksin government, and in the activities of party cadre/democracy activists and their interaction with people. Most pointedly, it is grounded in the electoral feats of the pro-Thaksin forces, resulting from a combination of old-style politics, and the Thaksin government's connection with popular aspiration.

Thaksinism, and the threat it posed to the old elite's relationship with the country's population, may well have given speed to the elaboration of its antithesis, a socially embedded liberalism (in sections of the Democrat party and elsewhere).

It would seem that when you are a historical figure, you get a lot of credit.