Thursday, September 21, 2006

Power To The People?

Proclaiming their intention to return power "to the people", the Thai Army has staged a coup to depose democratically elected Prime Minister Taksin Shinawatra. I'm not at all familiar with Thai politics, and am trying to reconcile the information I've heard. On the one hand, I've heard that Taksin was elected several times and by very large margins, so is very popular. On the other hand, the bloodless coup has been supported by the king and has been welcomed by many Thai people (as well as the Thai financial markets). Some reports are that Taksin, while popular, had become increasingly autocratic and was abusing the government system, packing the courts and politicizing the Senate, and going around the constitutional checks when it suited him. (Hmm, we in America wouldn't know anything about that.) The Army promises to make constitutional reforms and return the country to elections by next year. Could it be that the path to better democracy in Thailand is through a military coup? Strange but possible, I suppose. Meanwhile, Taksin seems to be responding quite graciously, voicing plans to "take a deserved rest" in London and pursue development and charitable work.

Quite the opposite tack is being taken by Andrés Manuel López-Obrador, the defeated Mexican presidential candidate who refuses to concede the election, despite final rulings against him by the nation's top electoral court. Instead, his supporters have staged large protest actions gridlocking parts of Mexico City, insisting against the settled facts that he didn't lose the election after all. (Hmm, we in America wouldn't know anything about that either.) Of course the difference here is that Al Gore graciously and timely conceded, while López-Obrador continues to rally his supporters, and has vowed to set up a "parallel government". He too claims to be "for the people". Apparently, even if it means the dismantling of Mexican democracy in order to install an unelected populist government. Meanwhile, President-elect Felipe Calderón has his work cut out for him.

Nobody ever said democracy was easy.

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