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06BANGKOK1301 TO BE OR NOT TO BE: THAT IS THE THAI SNAP ELECTION

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“54982”,”3/2/2006 11:18″,”06BANGKOK1301″,

 

“Embassy Bangkok”,”CONFIDENTIAL”,””,

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

The full text of the original cable is not available.

 

“,”C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BANGKOK 001301

 

SIPDIS

 

SIPDIS

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/02/2016

TAGS: PREL, PGOV, TH, SNAP Elections

SUBJECT: TO BE OR NOT TO BE: THAT IS THE THAI SNAP ELECTION

 

Classified By: Ambassador Ralph L. Boyce. Reason 1.4 (B,D)

 

1. (C) Summary. Prime Minister Thaksin led his Thai Rak Thai

party in registering for the April 2 snap election Thursday.

Only four other fringe parties have followed suit so far, as

the major opposition parties held to their boycott. The

Democrat Party canceled their planned rally at the Royal

Plaza on Saturday. Thaksin\’s rally Friday and the opposition

People\’s Alliance for Democracy rally Sunday–both at Sanam

Luang–are still on. Local press reported that Thaksin may

propose a new \”social contract\” in his speech on Friday;

according to this account, the PM will vow to dissolve the

to-be-elected government after 180 days. That six month

period would be used to amend the constitution. The April 2

election appears far from certain; in addition, due to the

details of the election law, the opposition boycott could

succeed in delaying a new government from forming even if

elections occur. Septel details the Ambassador\’s dinner with

Army Chief Sonthi Boonyaratklin. End Summary.

 

THE UNUSUAL SUSPECTS REGISTER FOR THE VOTE

——————————————

 

2. (SBU) Thaksin led his Thai Rak Thai (TRT) party-list

candidates to formally register on March 2. The PM, who

topped the 100 candidate list, reiterated his call for the

Democrat, Chat Thai and Mahachon parties to reconsider their

boycott of the election, but the opposition parties held

firm. Only four minor parties–none of which won seats in

the 2005 election–registered along with TRT: Prachakorn

Thai, Kasetakorn Thai, Phandin Thai and the Palang Prachachon

parties. Friday, March 3 will be the last chance for any

other parties to register.

 

A NEW OLIVE BRANCH FROM THE PM?

——————————-

 

3. (SBU) The PM may yet try to divide the opposition by

offering new constitutional amendments. Local press reported

that Thaksin plans to announce a new \”social contract\” at his

rally on Friday. According to this account, Thaksin will vow

to dissolve the new parliament 180 days after he forms a new

government. Those six months will be spent amending the

constitution. Opposition leaders dismissed this idea. PAD

leader Suriyasai Katasila told reporters that \”the only way

to solve the current crisis is that Thaksin has to go.\”

Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjahiva refused to judge the

proposal, saying \”how can we believe his words?\”

 

PREPARING FOR ELECTION DYSFUNCTION

———————————-

 

4. (C) The opposition parties decided to boycott the election

in the hopes that their non-participation would destroy the

legitimacy of the contest and force Thaksin to resign as PM.

But a close look at the election law suggests that their

boycott may actually prevent a new government from forming

anytime soon. The House is composed of 100 party-list seats

and 400 constituent seats. All 500 seats must be filled

before the new parliament can be seated and a new Prime

Minister and cabinet selected. Under an opposition boycott

scenario, Thai Rak Thai is likely to win the entire slate of

100 party-list seats. The constituent seats, however, may

pose more of a problem.

 

5. (C) In the case of at least two candidates running for a

constituent seat, a simple plurality wins. If a candidate

runs unopposed in an electoral district, however, he/she must

win at least 20 percent of eligible voters in that district.

In the 2005 election, TRT drew less than 20 percent of the

vote in 38 constituencies; the opposition easily won those

seats. But with the major opposition parties boycotting the

contest, TRT will either have to beat their results in all 38

of those districts, or get one of the minor parties to run a

candidate in those districts (thus making the 20 percent rule

inapplicable). If TRT and a combination of the minor parties

cannot win all 400 constituent seats, they could not seat the

House and form a new government. In this case, a special

by-election for the unfilled seats would be held a week

later, and repeated ad infinitum until the seat is filled.

(Note. In 2001, two rounds of back-to-back voting had to be

held before a government could be formed. End Note)

Throughout this saga, Thaksin would remain caretaker Prime

Minister, but any delay in forming a new government would

only add to the political uncertainty.

 

6. (C) Our contacts in both the opposition and TRT appear to

be aware of this possibility and are planning for it. For

TRT this means encouraging minor parties to run in these

tough districts. Indeed, once a candidate registers to run

for a constituency seat they cannot, by law, withdraw from

the contest. In other words, if TRT can get minor party

candidates to sign up for the race (and thus preclude TRT

from having to win more than 20 percent of eligible votes),

they need not follow through with an expensive campaign. The

pool of eligible minor party candidates is limited, however;

they must have ties to the province they are running in and

have been a member of their party for 90 consecutive days.

The opposition, meanwhile, will likely try to cut their own

deals with potential minor party candidates to keep them from

running, challenge the credentials of those who do run, and

work to keep voters at home on election day.

 

COMMENT

——-

7. (C) We should have a better feel for the likelihood of a

delay in forming a new government when candidate registration

ends on March 8 and we can get a clear headcount of non-TRT

candidates. That said, the convoluted scenario above

supposes a lot; the biggest question is whether the election

happens at all. Local journalists, the elite and the

chattering classes appear increasingly convinced that the

election will not happen. But they remain unable to explain

why or how the vote will be blocked without invoking the

usual conspiracy theories. A simple, clear and likely method

for removing Thaksin remains elusive. The same could be said

for his political survival. For his part, Thaksin remains

determined to crack the opposition\’s unity. His speech

Friday may win back some hearts and minds, but it will be too

late in some ways; the deadline for parties to register for

the election will have passed. Still, the pomp and

circumstance of the election preparations are a temporary

sideshow. All eyes are still focused on this weekend\’s

rallies.

BOYCE

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Written by thaicables

July 10, 2011 at 4:23 am

Posted in Confidential, Election

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