Thai Opposition May Win the Vote but Lose to Old-style backroom deals: Message to Western Donors – Prepare to respond and include possible Loan Freezes

The most exciting development in the final stretch of the Thai election campaign has been the rapid rise of the Move Forward Party and its leader, Pita Limchareonrat. (Photo by Ken Kobayashi)

The following is an article in Nikkei Asia by a leading young Thai scholar, Fuadi Pitsuwan.

Fuadi’s and others articles strongly suggest the following scenario. The Thaksin family’s Pheu Thai party and Pita’s Move Forward party will decisively WB the popular vote. The current Prime Minister, General Prayuth Chan-Ocha will at first be able to stay in power by stacking the Senate thus outnumbering the opposition in terms of legislators. The actual details are not that important as the constitutional rules are a constantly changing fabrication.

The international democratic community should start to signal prepare its response to that scenario – now. My hopes are not high. Democratic countries and donor agencies should politely communicate they will respond with actions rather than handwringing.

In the menu of countries and donors of potential responses is a freeze of any concessional financing of loans to Thailand. Loans require a commitment of the recipient country to repay. It is a serious, and unresolved question, whether a government that does not represent the will of the people can commit the public to repay sovereign loans.

Bankers tend to say Yes. The Opposition and activists tend to say say No. Given the doubt, donor countries and agencies should re-consider the risk of future financing to a democracy-divergent regime in Thailand.

The defence of democracy either openly transcends business-as-usual or it takes second place to the short-term justifications in the shadows.

Move Forward has emerged as the biggest challenge to previous expectations that Pheu Thai, the country’s largest opposition party, would sweep to a landslide victory.

Opinion polls suggest that most Thais exercising their democratic right to vote this weekend prefer a different future than the one decided for them over the past eight years under the administration of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha.

But if history teaches us anything about Thai elections, it is that the people’s choice is only one part of the equation affecting the outcome. Political horse-trading after the votes are counted will determine the shape of the ruling coalition that emerges, meaning that approval from a few nodes of power will be crucial to the composition and face of the new government.

The most exciting development in the final stretch of the campaign has been the rapid rise in popularity of the Move Forward Party and its leader, Pita Limchareonrat….”