Thailand: The Move Forward Party wins the General Election with the Pheu Thai Party a close second

By Laurence Humphries, RCIT Britain, 19th May 2023, www.thecommunists.net

 

On Sunday, 14th May 2023 thousands of voters in Thailand rejected the policies of the Bonapartist clique led by Prayut Chan-o-cha and voted for change. Both the populist forces Move Forward Party and Pheu Thai Party won over 286 seats in the legislature. The masses and oppressed wanted an end of military rule in Thailand and voted for democratic change. The election commission announced that Move Forward had won the election but because of Thailand’s flawed political system no decision will be made without consultation with both the royalty and the military.

 

Thailand’s reformist opposition has won the most seats and the largest share of the popular vote in a general election after voters roundly rejected the military-backed parties that have ruled the Southeast Asian country for nearly a decade.

 

With almost all votes counted on Monday, the progressive Move Forward Party (MFP) and the populist Pheu Thai Party were projected to win about 286 seats in the 500-member House of Representatives. But uncertainty remains about whether they would be able to form the next government due to skewed parliamentary rules that allow 250 members of a military-appointed Senate to vote on the prime minister.

 

That means MFP and Pheu Thai will need the support of smaller parties to establish a new administration.

 

The biggest winner of Sunday’s election was MFP, a progressive youth-led party that contested the general elections for the first time on a bold platform of reforming the monarchy and reducing the power of the military by rewriting the country’s constitution and ending conscription.” [1].

 

To date the Move Forward Party has had agreement on forming a coalition of several parties including the populist-bourgeois party Pheu Thai and other smaller parties. This means that they now have 309 MPs. The Thai constitution of 2017 insists that to form a stable government any political bloc needs 376 seats.

 

But fears remain that the royalist-military establishment may seek to cling to power. In the past 20 years, the military has staged two coups while the courts have brought down three prime ministers and dissolved several opposition parties.

 

“People are worried and they are scared,” said Hathairat Phaholtap, the managing editor of the Isaan Record newspaper. “They have waited for this vote for so long, and it means a lot to them. There’s a lot of tension, but also excitement and hope.” [2].

 

Inter-Imperialist Rivalry

 

Before the Covid-Counterrevolution and the economic slump of 2019, Thailand was economically one of the strongest of all the semi-colonial, capitalist regimes in Southeast Asia. Globally since the beginning of the war in the Ukraine and the emergence of the Eastern imperialists, China and Russia, the world capitalist system is in meltdown. Under Prayut Chan-o-cha’s leadership the regime had orientated towards China seeking economic aid. The lockdown in Thailand was draconian and very severe, leading to many social uprisings and imprisonment of many young radicals fighting against the implemented Lèse-majesté. These laws made it a crime to criticise the King Maha Vajiralongkorn who has amassed tremendous wealth and leads a corrupt lifestyle. The alliance with the generals in Myanmar in combination with ongoing severe droughts have led to enormous political pressure for the regime. Refugees who were civilians as well as combatants in the war in Myanmar fled from the army dictatorship in Myanmar.

 

Thailand was one of the strongest economies in South-East Asia, but the onset of the competing rivalries of imperialism has battered the country. The truth of the matter is that Thailand since the Covid-19 pandemic started faces ruin and bankruptcy with the onset of the immense crisis of capitalism. This has led to Thailand’s major tourist industry facing a 40% reduction largely due to the pandemic. There are no holiday makers and local beaches are empty, with no chance of improvement. The hotel and tourism industry is on the verge of collapse leading to mass unemployment, austerity, starvation and poverty for a massively growing number of people. This weak economic basis combined with the Bonapartist regime could provoke a pre-revolutionary situation in Thailand and affect other capitalist countries in South-East Asia.” [3]

 

Move Forward Party and the Pheu Thai Party

 

Both the Move Forward Party and the Pheu Thai Party are populist parties with a bourgeois leadership. Pita Limjaroenrat, a 34-year-old businessman leads the Move Forward Party. Its composition is mainly of young radicals opposed to the royalty and the military. During the Covid-Counterrevolution, the regime arrested thousands of Move Forward supporters and members who were involved in demonstrations and uprisings. The RCIT defended democratic rights as all revolutionaries should have, calling for the immediate release of the activists. Some of the MP’s elected to the legislature for Move Forward face criminal charges because of their actions. They are hoping that they can achieve change through peaceful democratic process. Of course, this is an illusion. The predecessor of the Move Forward Party was suspended and banned by the regime and its leader arrested. The Pheu Thai Party is a populist, bourgeois party founded in 1998 by Thaksin Shinawatra, a wealthy billionaire. He led several governments in 2006, but coups followed instituted by the military regime. Prayut Chan-o-cha, an Army General, took power after overthrowing his sister Yingluck Shinawtra in 2014. Pheu Thai had successfully won a general election in 2014, but the wing of the bonapartist bourgeoisie hates even a shred of help for the poor masses and urban poor and initiated a coup. It was said poor masses who supported Pheu Thai because of the promise to alleviate some of the poverty in Thailand. Thaksin Shinawatra is now in exile, but in the recent election his daughter Paetongtarn Shinawatra was the primary leader.

 

Thus the Pheu Thai Party is a bourgeois-populist party which represents a minority faction of the capitalist class but which, however, has to rely on the support of the workers and peasants in order to hold power. Nevertheless Thaksin and his party are despised by the elite because it is a party whose strength is based on the support of the masses of workers and peasants who have repeatedly intervened in the political life of Thailand during the last decade by militant mass mobilizations. However, bourgeois democracy will never solve the issues of poverty and cannot even give full democratic rights. As long as capitalism and imperialism have a foothold in Thailand, exploitation and oppression will be the reality for the workers and the poor”. [4]

 

For a Revolutionary Workers and Poor Peasants Government

 

Although the victory of the bourgeois-populist Move Forward Party seems a step forward for the masses fighting for democratic rights and an end of bonapartism, the military establishment is still a dominant force. The Royal Thai Army (RTA) is instrumental in choosing the 250 senators of the senate, which are all appointed positions and usually represent conservative and royalist sympathies. The military is opposed to Move Forward’s policies on Lèse-majesté, the reduction of powers for the King and the right to challenge him on a number of issues.

 

The decision to choose a new government is taken by both houses, and with only 309 seats in his support, the military can block the appointment of Pita Limjaroenrat as Prime Minister and rule with Royalist parties opposed to Move Forward’s democratic policies. It might continue to rule as a military clique or even institute a coup.

 

The RCIT puts forward the following transitional demands to organise the struggle towards socialism, establishing a workers and poor peasant’s government on the way. We call on everyone who supports the fight for socialism to join the RCIT and to help building a section in Thailand.

 

* Release all prisoners and young radicals from prison immediately! Drop all criminal charges against supporters of bourgeois-democratic rights, those who support Move Forward respectively Pheu Thai! The Thai Constitution must be replaced in order that the working class and the oppressed decide who should rule! For the full abolishment of Lèse-majesté and all other forms of monarchical respectively bonapartist ruling!

 

* For Strikes up to an Indefinite General Strike organised through Action Committees and Councils of Action elected and run by workers, groups of activists and representatives of the urban poor and poor peasantry to fight for democratic rights and the abolishment of all bonapartist and monarchical rule.

 

* For a sovereign, Revolutionary Constituent Assembly under the control of the organized popular masses! In such a Revolutionary Constituent Assembly, working-class activists should put forward socialist proposals and argue in favour of a Workers and Poor-Peasant Government based on Councils of the Workers, the Rural and Urban Poor!

 

* For Armed Defence Guards of the workers and the oppressed masses to protect themselves from provocations and attacks from the police, the military and right-wing forces!

 

* End the imperialist exploitation! Expropriate the multi-national corporations and put them under workers’ control! Abolish all debts without compensation! Summarize all banks into one State Bank under control of the workers!

 

* Only an armed insurrection led by the working class can end the military dictatorship and imperialist exploitation with a minimum number of lost lives! Only a revolutionary workers and poor peasant government can open the road towards a future of freedom, equality and peace, a future of socialism!

 

* To fulfil all of these goals, the vanguard of the workers in Thailand needs to build a revolutionary workers party in close alliance with the urban and rural poor, the militant youth and heroic activists fighting Bonapartism! No bourgeois party, not even the most populist ones, could really lead the struggle for true democracy! In every struggle, revolutionaries defend democratic rights and activists fighting for those rights without an ounce of support for bourgeois politics, politicians and parties!

 

* We call on all workers and poor to study the manifesto of the RCIT and to join the RCIT! Let us build together a new World Party of the Socialist Revolution, a revolutionary 5th International!

 

 

 

Footnotes

 

(1) Thailand election results: Opposition trounces military parties | Elections News | Al Jazeera, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/5/14/thailand-election-results-what-we-know-so-far

 

(2) What you need to know about Thailand’s general election | Politics News | Al Jazeera, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/5/13/whats-at-stake-in-thailands-parliamentary-election

 

(3) Thailand: Pro-Democracy Activists call for Resignation of Prayuth-Chan-o-cha and his Bonapartist Regime - RCIT - Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (thecommunists.net), https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/asia/thailand-pro-democracy-activists-call-for-resignation-of-prayut-chan-o-cha-and-his-bonapartist-regime/

 

(4) Thailand: Result of General Election Produces Stalemate and Deadlock - RCIT - Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (thecommunists.net), https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/asia/thailand-result-of-general-election-produces-stalemate-and-deadlock/