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05BANGKOK980 THAI ELECTION: THAKSIN IN AN \”AVALANCHE\”

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“26576”,”2/7/2005 11:29″,”05BANGKOK980″,”Embassy Bangkok”,

 

“UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY”,”05BANGKOK953|05BANGKOK954|05BANGKOK955″,

 

“This record is a partial extract of the original cable.

 

The full text of the original cable is not available.

 

“,”UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 BANGKOK 000980

 

SIPDIS

 

SENSITIVE

 

E.O. 12958: N/A

TAGS: PGOV, TH, Elections – Thai

SUBJECT: THAI ELECTION: THAKSIN IN AN \”AVALANCHE\”

 

REF: (A) BANGKOK 955 (B) BANGKOK 954 (C) BANGKOK 953

 

(D) BANGKOK 948 (E) BANGKOK 801 (F) BANGKOK

685 (G) BANGKOK 673 (H) 2004 BANGKOK 5989

 

1. (SBU) Summary: Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has

won a massive mandate in the February 6 parliamentary

election — unprecedented in Thai history — for a second

term as Thailand\’s Prime Minister. The results are still

unofficial (and won\’t be finalized for a few days), but

reliable estimates on February 7 indicate that Thaksin\’s Thai

Rak Thai (TRT) will win over 370 constituency and party list

parliamentary seats (out of a total 500) in the lower house

of the Parliament. This strong majority will allow him to

govern without coalition partners. The main opposition

Democrat Party (DP) is likely to drop to 93 seats. DP Leader

Banyat Bantadtan has announced his resignation. The Chart

Thai (CT) party, which was in Thaksin\’s last coalition, looks

to win 31 seats and will likely move into the opposition

camp. Thaksin\’s opponents, now significantly reduced in

power relative to the TRT party, warn gloomily that Thailand

has fewer checks and balances and could be on the way to

becoming less democratic as a one-party state. PM Thaksin,

sounding a more conciliatory tone in victory, says that he

will prove to his critics his good intentions for the

country. With an absolute majority in Parliament apparently

in his hands, Thaksin will be in a strong position to pursue

his political agenda into the foreseeable future. In any

event, the Thai people have clearly spoken, and made their

preferences known. End Summary.

 

NO DOUBTS ABOUT A HUGE THAKSIN VICTORY

 

2. (U) Thaksin\’s Thai Rak Thai (TRT) party won in all

regions of the country save for the Democrat Party\’s (DP)

traditional base in the southern constituencies. According

to morning after unofficial estimates on February 7, Thaksin

could pick up over 370 constituency and party list

parliamentary seats. According to surveys by media

broadcasting and Nation TV, the TRT has won at least 67 of 76

seats in the northern region, 126 of 136 in the northeast, 79

out of 97 in the cental region and 32 of 37 seats in Bangkok.

The only region where the opposition Democrat Party (DP)

prevailed was in the South where the Democrats reportedly won

at least 48 of the region\’s 54 seats. TRT appears to have

picked up over 60 of the 100 Party List seats. (These are

national, non-constituency seats awarded proportionately to

those parties who pick up five percent or more of the

separate countrywide vote on party lists.)

 

3. (U) Voter turnout was estimated at 70% nationwide (i.e.

over 31 million voters), with some areas in Bangkok reporting

over 90% of eligible voters streaming to the polls on a hot,

sunny Sunday marked by unusually light traffic in the

capital. Voting was generally peaceful throughout the

country (including in Thailand\’s trouble-plagued deep South),

with only some reports of shooting near Korat in the

country\’s northeast.

 

OFFICIAL RESULTS NOT AVAILABLE IMMEDIATELY

 

4. (U) By midday February 7, about 60 percent of the vote

had been counted, Election Commission officials told us.

Announcement of the official results should begin to come in

over the next several days. According to article 159 of the

Constitution, Parliament must be seated within 30 days of the

election. The official results will likely be announced in

tranches over the next several weeks. The law allows

considerable leeway for challenges and, though most will not

be sustained ultimately, scores of complaints of election

illegalities will have to be considered. February 21 has

been designated as the date for re-run elections if any

February 6 contests are set aside for electoral law

violations. The first tranche of official, handcounted

results should be announced by February 9.

 

DEMOCRATS DRUBBED: NO OPPOSITION POWER TO CENSURE PRIME

MINISTER

 

5. (SBU) If initial results hold true, the DP could end up

with less than 100 seats in Parliament, including Party List

seats. For the DP the vote dashed its hopes to win enough

seats to be able officially to censure the Prime Minister.

By law, the opposition needs over two fifths of the 500 seat

Parliament – at least 201 votes – in order to bring a censure

motion against the Prime Minister. With an apparent win of

over 370 seats, Thaksin looks to be comfortably beyond reach

of his opposition, whether it be the DP alone or a coalition

of the DP and the Chart Thai Party. Immunity from censure

probably won\’t apply to Thaksin\’s cabinet – the opposition

only needs over one fifth of Parliament, or at least 101

votes, to censure individual ministers. That could be done

if DP and Chart Thai cooperate.

 

TRT LOSES DEEP SOUTH TO DP IN PROBABLE BACKLASH TO SECURITY

POLICIES IN THE REGION

 

6. (SBU) One bright spot for the DP was in the three

southernmost provinces of Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat, where

the Democrat Party made a political comeback to dominance,

sweeping 10 of 11 seats. Six TRT incumbents were unseated.

Chart Thai picked up one seat. Most of the new DP MPs in the

deep South are younger new faces for DP. Their victories

indicate a popular backlash to the government\’s heavy-handed

security policy against Muslim separatist violence over the

last year. In Nakhorn Si Thammarat, former Foreign Minister

and DP leader Surin Pitsuwan survived a strong challenge from

TRT (ref. D) and was re-elected to his constituency seat.

(In the last election, Surin had been on the DP party list

slate, but he had served five previous terms in the

constituency.)

 

BANYAT RESIGNS

 

7. (SBU) Following its general debacle, the DP will have to

decide on a new direction to revitalize the party. A change

in leadership will be the first order of business and DP

Leader Banyat Bantadthan has reportedly obliged by resigning

\”to take responsibility\” for his party\’s defeat. The most

obvious replacement for Banyat will be Deputy Leader Aphisit

Vejjajiva. The young, telegenic Aphisit lost a bitter

leadership contest to Banyat after former Prime Minister

Chuan Leekpai stepped down from the party\’s top post in 2003.

The party will now likely turn to Aphisit as the one DP

leader who might be able to compete with Thaksin on charisma.

 

CHART THAI POSITION UNCERTAIN

 

8. (SBU) The Chart Thai party, erstwhile coalition partner

of the TRT, has unofficially won about 31 seats in

Parliament, including what appears to be a clean sweep of its

Suphan Buri stronghold in central Thailand (ref. A). The

party also picked up a seat in Bangkok, its first in about 20

years. Flamboyant massage parlor tycoon Chuvit Kamolvisit,

who joined the party following his strong showing in last

year\’s Bangkok gubernatorial race (ref. H), appears headed

for Parliament as a party list candidate. Initial vote

counting of the nationwide party list ballots indicates that

CT will get up to eight of the allocated 100 seats. Chuwit

is listed 6th on the CT list.

 

9. (SBU) Thaksin, exuding confidence in the days before the

election and not in a conciliatory mood, told crowds of

supporters that he did not need CT\’s partnership, no longer

trusted CT leader Banharn Silpa-archa, and would not invite

the CT into his government this time around. On February 6,

Thaksin reportedly said that he would consult with Banharn

regarding TRT going it alone in the next government. Banharn

could be looking at a spell in the opposition camp. Hinting

in this direction, Banharn told the media that, though he

would keep his earlier promise to support Thaksin for prime

minister when Parliament reconvenes, he also acknowledged his

party\’s duty to help bolster the system of checks and

balances to counter the government.

 

MAHACHON PONDERS ITS FUTURE

 

10. (SBU) If the Democrat Party and the Chart Thai have

seen their powers sharply diminished relative to the TRT, the

Mahachon Party (MCP), formed only last year, may be on the

way out. Projected unofficially to have won only one seat,

its ambitions to become the \”third force\” in Thai politics

appear to have collapsed. Even in the country\’s mostly

rural, vote rich Northeast region, where it had expected to

do well against TRT, MCP was swamped. For example, in Nakon

Ratchasima Province, TRT appears to have swept virtually all

of the 16 seats. The Mahachon Party had been tipped to win

four of these seats (ref. F) – instead it won none. This

former Chat Pattana (CP) stronghold is now solidly TRT

country following CP\’s official merger with TRT late last

year. Mahachon party co-founder (and former DP kingmaker)

Sanan Kachornprasart has reportedly told the media that he

will resign his party position and that the party should

consider dissolving itself if it really had picked up only

one seat.

 

WARNINGS OF DANGERS IN A \”ONE PARTY STATE\”

 

11. (SBU) Thaksin\’s political opponents and critics alike

are mourning the onset of a one party government. In their

public statements, other party leaders took on a plaintive

tone. Alluding to the possibility that he will be left out

in the cold if Thaksin follows through on his one party

government, Banharn expressed the wish that Thaksin would

help the country\’s interests by making \”more friends, not

foes.\” Banyat, inviting CT and Mahachon to join his DP party

in the opposition, admitted that even with this coalition \”we

may have limited scrutinizing powers.\” Mahachon leader Anek

Laothamatas sniffed that the election \”was akin to an

election in a communist country.\”

 

12. (SBU) Academics and members of the country\’s political

institutions have been even more dire in their public

comments. Political Science Association of Thailand

President Thiraphat Serirangsan, for example, warned that as

the government\’s power grows, the public\’s rights and

freedoms will contract. More mildly, former Prime Minister

Anand Panyarachum commented \”absolute power is not a

surprise. What is important is how the power is used.\”

(Privately, Anand is much more negative on the next four

years. See septel on Ambassador\’s conversation with Anand on

February 7.)

 

THAKSIN THE COLOSSUS

 

13. (SBU) Comment: Flush with the apparent magnitude of

his victory (earlier he had predicted \”not a landslide – an

avalanche\”), Thaksin has sounded a conciliatory note. In an

attempt to reassure his critics, Thaksin said on February 6

that \”four years from now, my critics in academia and the

opposition will know me better. They\’ll realize that I

really had good intentions for the country.\” Thaksin now

appears to have the mandate to define what is good. Though

the counting continues, to all appearances he has virtual

legislative carte blanche to push through his programs.

Ironically, the \”stability\” that Thaksin is celebrating looks

to his critics suspiciously like the end of real political

diversity in Thailand. Obviously that is not true. The

opposition still has a voice in and out of Parliament, the

Thai media is not stifled (despite some legitimate concerns),

and there is a sitting \”watchdog\” Senate and active civil

society. That said, the Thai electorate has given a clear

sign to Thaksin that he will interpret as a mandate for his

policies and satisfaction with where he has taken the country

over the past four years. End Comment.

BOYCE

Written by thaicables

June 24, 2011 at 1:29 pm

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