“Unpredictable, messy” is how the March-24 election is seen by academics

Thailand’s leading academics taking part in the election forum organized by Thai PBS last week

The March-24 is anything but predictable. That’s the general consensus among some of Thailand’s leading academics and political experts just less than a week away from the first general election for the country in almost eight years.

They agree that the electoral system – in which a vote cast will be used to determine both winners in the constituency election and those in the party list candidates as well as who the next prime minister will be – is one key factor that defies analyses of the poll results.

The entry of some new political parties, notably the Future Forward which is attracting large following among first-time voters, has also added an element of unpredictability  

Speaking at a forum organized by Thai PBS recently, Orathai Kokpol, the deputy secretary of King Prajadhipok’s Institute, compared the election to a Korean drama series which could be long-winding and full of twists and turns.

“Although the political environment is unpredictable, the positive side is that people are interested in political campaigns and debates, particularly on parties’ policies,” said, noting that whether or not the election will be free and fair is one major concern.

Jade Donavanik from the Faculty of Law at the College of Asian Scholars,  noted that a few months back things were probably more predictable, with Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha standing out as the post-election prime minister in waiting.

But as the election draws near, things are becoming more complicated with other potential contenders for the premiership emerging, he said, adding that judging from political stands taken by most political parties, the post-election scenario may upset all current analyses. “If the two major parties, the Democrat and Pheu Thai can together achieve the magic number, that’s the 376 seats, something unimaginable may happen,” he said.

Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a political analyst at Chulalongkorn University, however, disputed the possibility of the two warring political parties shaking hands, but admitted everything is still up in the air.   He also expressed concern that the likely messy political scenario after the election could plunge the country back into the vicious cycle of civilian rule and military dictatorship.

Somkiat Tangkitvanich,  president of Thailand Development Research Institute, tried to play down people’s expectations on the election, describing as just “a transition to another election.” He shared the prediction that the election will produce a coalition which is likely to be an unstable one given the convergence of political parties with different political agendas and interest.

Somkiat also pointed out the next government will also likely be hamstrung by the role of independent organizations whose role has been enhanced under the current Constitution.

The forum was the last in a series of election debates organized by Thai PBS to provide audiences with a platform to listen to visions and policies of political parties taking part in the March-24 election.

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