2005 年 4 巻 2 号 p. 167-194
The Thaksin administration, which started in 2001, is characterized by a high degree of political stability that has rarely been observed in Thailand. The aim of this essay is to investigate the reason for such stability.
No prime minister of Thailand after 1992 was able to exert strong leadership because he was subject to pressure from various countervailing forces: cabinet ministers, opposition parties, coalition parties, factions and MPs within the government party, civil bureaucracy and the military, mass media, and so on. However, Thaksin, the leader of the Thai Rak Thai party, succeeded in destroying this plural structure of power to the extent that he could liberate himself from dependence on the counterbalancing forces. Thaksin’s success owes much to the present constitution, promulgated in 1997 for the purpose of political reform, and to his own wealth and popular policies.
The 1997 constitution strengthened position of prime minister against opposition parties, cabinet ministers and MPs. The introduction of the single-representative constituency by the constitution favored the larger parties, and Thaksin was able to gather the largest number of MPs in preparation for the 2001 general elections. The Thai Rak Thai party gained 248 out of 500 seats in 2001 and increased the number to about 300 later by incorporating small parties. This large size of the Thai Rak Thai party neutralizes factions within the party and coalition parties. In addition, since Thaksin is one of the richest people in Thailand, he can finance the party by himself. Unlike other politicians, he does not need to depend on businesspersons for donation at the expense of political autonomy. His wealth is helpful in appeasing MPs who are unhappy simply to act as rubber stamps in the parliament. With the large number of government MPs, Thaksin can keep the civil and military bureaucracy in tight rein. Moreover, he has retaliated so severely against critical intellectuals and mass media that they may no longer be able to criticize him and his administration. The premier’s power suffers few constraints.
In addition to this stable control over the cabinet and the parliament, Thaksin’s policies, benefiting both rural and urban populations, afford him a good grip on the people. As most people expected him to revive the economy, the higher economic growth under his leadership has been especially important in mustering support for his administration. Owing to various policies, Thaksin has successfully maintained an immense popularity among the people. This popularity helps lessen the negative effect of power concentration to a large extent.
Lastly, it is important to note that the stability of the Thaksin administration is accompanied by potential instability of the political system. Party politics in Thailand has been characterized by an unstable administration and a stable political system. However, now that administration is stable under Thaksin, it is probable that the political system will become unstable in the near future.