Forecasts of international political events
Will Thailand renew its State of Emergency?
Will the Thai government renew its sixty day State of Emergency before it expires?
The question really has two parts: will Yingluck renew the SoE if she is in power, and will her replacement renew the SoE if she is not in power?
Losing power is a very real possibility for Yingluck. There are corruption probes underway against her at the National Anti-Corruption Commission and a petition for impeachment against her with the Thai Senate. In addition, the Democrat party has filed a petition with the Constitutional Court to have Yingluck’s Puea Thai party disbanded.
According to Vicha Mahakun, a member of the NACC’s probe panel, if the NACC determines that Yingluck is guilty of corruption, the case goes to the courts. Yingluck will have to stop working as prime minister but she will legally remain the PM until the courts find her guilty. Under a parliamentary system, she can only be PM if her party remains in power, which means that another PT party member will have to step in as acting PM until the court reaches a verdict.
Vicha Mahakun suggests that impeachment before the Senate would reach a conclusion before a court case. Just under half of the Thai Senate is appointed by the Senate Selection Committee, which is made up of people appointed by the king. Add in the elected Senators who are royalist, and you’ve got a royalist majority that’s very likely to vote against Yingluck.
Yingluck remains PM only as long as her party is in power. If her party is disbanded, a new PM must be named to replace her. Article 7 of the current constitution states “it shall be decided in accordance with the constitutional convention in the democratic regime of government with the King as Head of State.” What that means exactly is subject to debate. However, in the 2011 elections, the PT party got 265 seats while the Democrat party got 159 (out of 500). The Democrat party seems to be the obvious candidate to head a new interim government if the PT party no longer exists.
An interesting point is that while Yingluck has declared a State of Emergency, she hasn’t done anything with the powers a SoE givers her. While the police are widely considered PT party supporters, judges are appointed by the king, and the courts are royalist and pro-Democrat party. Two previous incarnations of the PT party have been dissolved by the courts. Police actions that result in violence are likely to go badly for the government in the courts. The government is therefore holding its emergency powers in reserve. As long as the anti-government protesters continue to disrupt elections, the government will want to ensure it has as much legal flexibility as possible, but actual use of its expanded police powers is likely to bring mixed results.
So we have three possible scenarios when the SoE comes up for renewal. The first is that Yingluck is still in power, the second is that another PT member is acting PM while she defends herself against NACC charges, and the third is that she has been removed from power, either through impeachment or by dissolution of the PT party.
It’s pretty clear that Yingluck intends to continue the electoral process until the lower house of parliament has a quorum. Before the election, candidates were unable to register in 28 of the country’s 500 voting districts, making a quorum impossible. (A quorum requires 475 members.) The government held the elections anyway, knowing that the by-elections necessary to bring the lower house up to a quorum are likely to take a few months. The government will want to maintain its expanded police power during that period. So it will most likely extend the SoE.
The government’s policy won’t change under an acting PM. As long as the PT party is in power, it will continue working towards a quorum and will want to maintain the SoE.
If Yingluck is removed from power, the UDD (aka red shirts) will consider it to be a coup. So far, the UDD has been avoiding confrontations that might lead to violence. However, it is prepared to resist any coup, military or otherwise. Even the military would have trouble asserting control in large parts of the country, and a civilian government certainly wouldn’t find it any easier. So in the event that either Yingluck is removed from power and is replaced by a Democrat lead government, the new government would probably not only renew the SoE, but would be forced to extend it across the whole country.