Wednesday, July 16, 2008

What's good for Thaksin?

If we hope to grasp what's next for Thailand, that's the question. As I blogged, ". . . Thaksin's own predicament is likely to have a substantial bearing on how the government chooses to respond to the unfolding crisis."

I have commented on the instability in Thai politics at this juncture, wrought by two recent high court decisions. Will a snap election be called? There were indications that PM Samak had been seriously considering that option. Thailand's Democrat secretary-general Suthep Thaugsuban, quoted in the Bangkok Post believes that will not happen.*
Mr Suthep said yesterday the ruling People Power party (PPP) can buy at least six months until the Constitution Court hands down a verdict on whether the party should be dissolved for electoral fraud.

He said a House dissolution is likely to be the last resort for the PPP as long as it has yet to complete the constitutional amendments it wants. "Mr Samak will struggle on by reshuffling the cabinet so the government is refreshed, and it may survive until the end of the year or January next year," he said.

Mr Suthep said former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who is believed to be pulling the strings behind the Samak administration, will be trying to get Article 309 of the constitution repealed. The provision deals with the work of the Assets Scrutiny Committee, whose term has now run out. "

Dissolving the House seems out of the question and it does raise risks for Mr Thaksin. In the case of a House dissolution, at least four months would elapse before a new government is formed. "By that time, his court trial will be over," he said.
It is not clear to me why a snap election call necessarily involves a four month delay. Only if a four month delay is inevitable does Suthep's point make complete sense to me. There are risks associated with delay, not the least of which is the prospect of a worsening economy. Also, military or palace intervention would seem to remain a possiblity if street demonstrations or other events create the perception that the government is not up to the job. These groups may cry foul if Samak continues to pursue his constitutional amendments. Whereas an election victory could give the PPP a stong mandate to make the changes it wants.

* h/t Bangkok Pundit. Bangkok Pundit maintains that a general election is most likely to be held sometime in the first half of 2009.

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