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Thailand elections

Interview: Rodion Ebbighausen / ng
February 2, 2014

Thais have gone to the polls, but the political crisis is unlikely to end anytime soon, Michael Winzer from the Konrad-Adenauer Foundation told DW.

Protesters hold posters before the elections in Thailand. (Photo:
Image: Picture-Alliance/dpa

DW: The polling stations in Thailand are now closed. Voting proceeeded peacefully in most areas, unlike what some had predicted. How do you explain that?

Michael Winzer: The fact that there was no major unrest or violence during the elections shows that the opposition has already achieved its goal in the last few weeks. They wanted to prevent a stable government from being voted in. Now the process will have to continue - with by-elections for example.

Interim President Yingluck Shinawatra's strategy was to use the elections to take the pressure off, achieve a bigger mandate and stay in power. Has that strategy failed?

What Yingluck achieved with the elections is, first of all, a kind of symbolic legitimization. If it turns out that she won a majority, it will get difficult for the opposition.

Porträt - Michael Winzer
Michael WinzerImage: KAS

What Yingluck won't achieve, though, is the formation of a stable government. It's already clear that she won't have the necessary quorum of 95 percent of parliamentarians. That's the number she needs for a functioning parliament. That's why there'll have to be by-elections in at least 28 districts, which will probably take until March.

And even if there is a government at some point, the biggest opposition party will not be represented in parliament. So, parliament won't be able to achieve any kind of consensus by democratic means on major issues that would be backed up by the people.

The elections will not bring calm. Important political issues will still be fought over in the streets of Thailand.

Given the unrest in the last few weeks, we've heard very little from moderate Thais, who don't identify with the government or the opposition. Is there a moderate group at all, or could it perhaps emerge from the current political impasse?

The situation is very tense, there are hardly any Thais who are neutral. Everybody has an opinion about the conflict, everybody takes sides. The problem is that there is currently no way to reach a compromise or consensus. Those you could call neutral, are a tiny, negligible minority.

So, we can expect more unrest in the coming weeks?

Yes, as I said, a stable government is unlikely, and there are three legal reasons that could threaten the current government.

First, it's unclear whether the by-election procedure is constitutional. So, there is a danger that the Constituitional Court will annul the elections.

Second, the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) is in the process of looking into an impeachment process against Yingluck. Should she become prime minister, the NACC could topple her on legal grounds.

And third, there is a trial under way against 308 parliamentarians, because they had voted in favor of a contentious change to the constitution. The amendment would stipulate that the entire Senate would have to be elected.

The worst-case scenario is that all 308 lawmakers would be suspended for five years. That would not only mean that there'd be no opposition in parliament, the government would also lose many of its members of parliament. Parliament would be practically empty.

So, even after the electoral process is finished, the government and parliament will remain so unstable that no important reforms or decisions will be implemented or taken.

Michael Winzer heads the Konrad-Adenauer Foundation in Thailand.

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