EDITORIAL: Elite cements its rule

BANGKOK (The Nation/ANN) - With the Senate selected, the junta’s main strategy for holding on to power is successfully completed.

What was the point of this country spending Bt5.8 billion to hold a general election, plus Bt1.3 billion to select a Senate, if the result is that General Prayut Chan-o-cha continues in power?
We could add the Bt131.5 billion poured into so-called national reform. It too achieved nothing for the country, aside from cementing the vicious circle of authoritarian rule.
General Prayut and his troops staged a coup in May 2014 that toppled an elected civilian government and have since ruled the country via the power of the gun, suppressing all opposition, destroying political institutions and eradicating the rule of law principle.
The so-called reform agenda is 
nothing but a smokescreen erected by an authoritarian regime of the military, top bureaucrats, business conglomerates and a tiny civilian elite. The regime’s core aim is to maintain the status quo, ruled by a traditional and wealthy elite, that has ignored the “lower-class” majority.
But since political legitimacy requires people participation, the junta designed a crooked process to place its supporters in the legislative bodies, the Senate and the House of Representatives.
The anti-democratic farce to select 250 senators was as opaque as it was costly. The junta-sponsored charter
 indicates that Senate candidates were picked by the selection committee, the ruling National Council for Peace and Order, as well as chiefs of security and the armed forces. No candidate list was made available for public scrutiny.
The selection committee proposed the names of 400 “good people” to the junta, which had its own quota of 50 Senate seats. The Defence ministry’s permanent secretary, chiefs of the supreme command, Army, Navy, Air Force and police were handed six more seats. 
The remainder were handpicked by Deputy PM Prawit Wongsuwan before his boss Prayut passed the list on 
for Royal endorsement yesterday. 
Among our new senators are some 100 serving and retiring military and police officers, making up 40 per cent of the upper house. Prawit also picked more than 50 members of the rubber-stamp National Legislative Assembly, and 15 Cabinet ministers.
The high-cost Senate has only two core functions: to install Prayut as the country’s next prime minister and to be guardian for the junta’s 20-year national strategy.
The first task could be tricky, as a simple majority of the two houses combined is required to install a prime minister. Assured of support from all 250 of his handpicked senators, Prayut needs the backing of only 126 elected MPs to retain his post, while his rivals will need 376 votes in the lower house to overcome Senate opposition.
Results of the nearly Bt6 billion general election held on March 24 are currently being twisted to ensure the pro-junta bloc forms the government under Prayut. The Election Commission, appointed by junta lawmakers, has chosen a calculation method for party-list MPs that tips the balance in favour of the pro-junta faction.
It now has 255 seats in its pocket, a slight majority in the lower house 
that will do little to enhance the new government’s stability. 
That government is currently being forged in the heat of frenzied horse trading as pro-junta parties seek to gain control of the most “valuable” (and lucrative) ministries. In order to leverage their bargaining power, political leaders are suggesting they might switch camps. This self-serving spectacle does nothing for political development or the hopes of voters they claim to represent.
Almost certain is that this country has spent huge amounts of money merely to legitimise the perpetuation in power of the junta leaders and their regime. Investing in this self-serving elite has been a huge waste of national resources.

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