Sunday, December 7, 2008

Two cheers for Democracy

As they cross the bridge, Narong and Vijay discuss what democracy means.


Narong: Democracy? Majority rule, I guess.

Vijay: And in Thailand, that’s the problem. Majority rule. But without responsible government the rights of a minority can be abused by the tyranny of the majority. Like now.

Narong: Democracy is supposed to mean that someone comes along and says, “Vote for me and I’ll get you this.” He or she presents an idea, makes a promise.

Vijay: But what we are objecting to is that in rural Thailand, and this was something that Thaksin exploited, was that if you go along and say “Here’s some cash, vote for me,” that's not fair government.

Narong: What’s the difference? In the first case, a politician says “Vote for me,” and gives a long-term reward, and in the second case, the politician says “Vote for me,” and gives a short term reward.

Vijay: But the central idea is that the first politician has ideas to make society better and fairer. The second politician may or may not have these ideas, but by distributing cash, he just wants to get into power.

Narong: But the poor rural voter is saying, “Promises, promises. Heard all this before. Show me the money.” That’s what they respond to.



It could be quite some time until Thailand can have elections that are competitive as well as being procedurally fair.


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