Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Political stability remains a dream


Political stability remains a dream


Despite the fact that it is close to success in forming a coalition government with five smaller parties, the People Power party (PPP) appears to be stuck in the hot seat.

The trouble stems from an allegation that its deputy leader, Yongyuth Tiyapairat, engaged in vote buying in violation of election law.

The case is so serious many party members are pondering a move to a new party, either the Prachakorn Thai party of Sumit Sundaravej or Chalerm Yubamrung's New Alternative party, should the PPP be ordered dissolved in the same manner as was its predecessor, Thai Rak Thai.

Yongyuth was accused of arranging for a group of kamnan and village headmen to be flown into Bangkok from Chiang Rai for a meeting so he could solicit their help in campaigning for PPP candidates in Chiang Rai, his home province. It was alleged that envelopes containing cash were handed to these local officials from a former aide to Yongyuth.

The key incriminating evidence - said to be quite solid to build a case against the former natural resources and environment minister - is a VCD purportedly showing him in the act of wrongdoing.

The VCD was obtained by Pol Maj-Gen Chaiya Siriamphankul, deputy commissioner of Special Branch police, who investigated the case.

Yongyuth has denied all charges against him and claimed he was set up by political opponents determined to ruin the PPP. He demanded to see the VCD in question, but when the evidence was made available to him on Friday, he simply didn't show up. No explanation was given.

Because Yongyuth is an executive member of the PPP, the case will have far-reaching implications for the party if the accused is found guilty and handed a red card by the EC. The party would be held accountable for the misdeed and could be disbanded by the Constitution Court. All party executives could be barred from politics for five years in the same way 111 executives from Thai Rak Thai were dealt with.

Despite the threat of the possible dissolution of the party, the PPP remains as defiant as ever. It has vowed to press on with its attempt to form a government with its allies, among them the Ruam Jai Thai Chart Pattana, Pracharaj and Matchimathipataya parties, and possibly the Chart Thai and Puea Pandin parties which have yet to decide whether to join a PPP-led coalition.

Until the Constitution Court rules on the fate of the PPP, which would come several months after the EC has handed down a verdict in Yongyuth's case, the PPP should be able to get a government in place to run the country at least for a while.

In a worst-case scenario that the PPP is dissolved by the Constitution Court, the party has devised a contingency plan in which its MPs, provided they stick with the party, flock en masse to a new party, perhaps the Prachakorn Thai or New Alternative parties.

But whether the new party could form a government all over again depends whether its allies go along with the plan or switch to the Democrats.

With Yongyuth's case still pending before the EC, it is not surprising the Democrats have not given up hope, no matter how faint it is, of forming an alternative coalition government.

The party last week asked its member, Chaiwat Sinsuwong, to withdraw a complaint to the Supreme Court seeking the nullification of all advance votes.

With the legal hurdles pending against the PPP, it is hard to imagine how a government with it at the helm could function effectively while the prospect of being disbanded hovers over it.

The Democrats would not be much better off even if they were given a chance to form a government.

Whether the government is headed by the PPP or the Democrats, political stability remains elusive. Those hoping for a stable government should resign themselves to the sad fact that this will not be realised for several months at least.

That is the price this country and its people must pay for the restoration of democracy and for the kind of politicians they elected to parliament.

Veera Prateepchaikul is Deputy Editor-in-Chief, Post Publishing Co Ltd.

No comments: