Thailand’s 2019 Elections: Volatile Voting, Elite Politics and the Struggle for a New Political Order
THAILAND STUDIES PROGRAMME SEMINAR
About the Seminar
The elections scheduled for 24 March 2019 will be Thailand’s first polls since the coup d’état staged by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) junta on 22 May 2014. At stake in this electoral contest is not merely who will assume government power, but in fact the form of Thailand’s political system. The country’s royal, bureaucratic and military elites are clearly looking to consolidate their hold on power through the establishment of a semi-authoritarian regime. Within such a regime, the formal electoral process would be a device for placating domestic political pressures and for earning greater international legitimacy than has been possible under the current model of direct military rule. Efforts to transition to a new regime type are, however, likely to be neither smooth nor easy to make successful. A radical change of electoral system, the emergence of several new parties, and the (temporary) involvement of royal family members make the campaign highly volatile and the election results unpredictable. The 2019 elections are only the beginning of a new round of struggle to set the terms for a political order in Thailand. It will be difficult for the NCPO to establish a robust authoritarian regime, but neither is Thailand likely to transition to a stable democratic system. The state of Thai politics in the aftermath of the elections will be tense and unsettled, and power will be fragmented.
About the Speaker
Dr Prajak Kongkirati is Assistant Professor, Head of the Department of Government, and Associate Dean for Research and Academic Services in the Faculty of Political Science, Thammasat University. He was formerly Head of the Southeast Asian Studies Center, East Asian Institute, Thammasat University, and Visiting Fellow at the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute, Singapore. He has published widely in the fields of Thai politics, conflict and violence, party and electoral politics, democratization, and social movements. His book, And Then the Movement Emerged: The Cultural Politics of Thai Students and Intellectual Movements before the October 14 Uprising (2005), received the award for the best book in the social sciences in Thailand. His latest publications are The Not-So-Bloody Election: Violence, Democracy and the Historic July 3, 2011 Election (2013); “Thailand’s Failed 2014 Election: The Anti-election Movement, Violence and Democratic Breakdown,” Journal of Contemporary Asia (2016); “The Prayuth Regime: Embedded Military and Hierarchical Capitalism in Thailand,” TRaNS: Trans -Regional and -National Studies of Southeast Asia (2018), co-authored with Veerayooth Kanchoochat; and “From Illiberal Democracy to Military Authoritarianism: Intra-Elite Struggle and Mass-Based Conflict in Deeply Polarized Thailand,” The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science (2019).
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