Economy, charter changes, graft to test Democrat-Palang Pracharat ties

This week’s introduction of the Democrat Party’s “Avengers” team was not just a PR stunt by a reeling political camp seeking to capitalize on a big movie hype. It was also a stern message to the ruling party, Palang Pracharat, which wants to take key control of the economy but will struggle to show off its own economic superheroes. The Democrats were practically saying: “Here’s our team, and it’s not even at the frontline. Look how ready we are. What about you?”

The Democrats are arguably the biggest kingmaker, despite their humiliating election loss. Not only do they want to be in the government coalition, but they also need to best utilize the opportunity in order to make a big turnaround. If Palang Pracharat takes all the economic credits, what’s the point of being in the government?

Just a few days ago, the Democrats gritted their teeth and joined the Prayut coalition, risking a party breakup in the process. Many party members, particularly the younger generation, do not want to support a military-backed prime minister. They advocate the principles of old guards like former leaders Abhisit Vejjajiva and Chuan Leekpai, who apparently are dismayed at military involvement in politics.

This makes the relationship between the Democrat and Palang Pracharat parties very fragile. But the trouble does not end at the fight to spearhead the economy. Other flash points include the issues of charter amendments and corruption, which will almost definitely come.

In fact, even if the economy is great and “cake sharing” satisfies both sides, the ties can be severed all of a sudden by disagreement over charter changes and graft cases involving the Cabinet.

The current charter is unorthodox to say the least and many clauses favor continuation of military influences in politics to keep the Shinawatras at bay. Calls for such constitutional content to be toned down or completely revoked will come from the opposition soon, and that will put the Democrats between a rock and a hard place.

Some Democrat members will not want to upset Palang Pracharat by taking an aggressive stand on constitutional amendment, but others will make a lot of pro-change noises, supported by the opposition, the media and social media. Chances are the party will, again, find itself trying to please everyone and fighting to avoid virtual extinction in doing so.

Graft is the “last but not least” issue. No political party is clean, and the Democrats have had their fair share of scandals. Yet the coalition partner will be forced to make a stand when corruption cases emerge against the other parties, particularly Palang Pracharat. The ruling party has used corruption to advertise against the other side, and the Democrats have for long done the same. A graft case against Palang Pracharat will badly threaten its “legitimacy” and virtually deprive the Democrats of good reasons to stay with it.

Past governments met their premature ends primarily because of either graft or constitutional conflicts. It will be the same for the Prayut coalition, although the only difference is that if death is to come, it can be a lot quicker.


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