I'd like to start off by talking about which political candidate I support in the upcoming polls: Nobody. I am neither for or against any candidate or party. I don't live here in Thailand permanently, and therefore I don't feel I have a right to a political opinion. I'm not the one who has to live with the benefits and consequences this upcoming election will bring.
It bothers me to no end how Americans (and people from other countries) have strong opinions on how another country should run things. My belief is: Unless you live in that country and know the culture and language, you have no right to an opinion on how they operate. It scares me to death how people will watch a thirty minute news program or read a five hundred word article and then think they know everything they need to know to make a serious judgment call that affects the lives of thousands.
That being said, back to the subject at hand:
When I first arrived here back in June, it didn't take long before I ran into a political sign. All of Thailand is littered with them! I knew going into this trip that it would be during the election. I knew ahead of time about the two main parties and their candidates for prime minister, so it was little surprise to me.
A little bit of background: The incumbent prime minister is Abhisit Vejjajiva of the Democrat Party. On all the political signs around Thailand, Abhisit's all bear the number 10. Here is a picture:
The woman with him is (I'm guessing) the parliamentry candidate. As I've moved out of Chiang Mai and to other cities, I've noticed the woman on the poster changes to some other person. The same is true for the political posters for Yingluck Shinawatra, the prime minister candidate for the Puea Thai Party. Her posters are all red and all have a number one on them. Her posters look like this:
This is the first time a woman has a serious chance at becoming prime minister. It is interesting to note that from my district in Chiang Mai, both of the member of Parliament candidates are women.
Of the two major parties, both of them have another unique campaign method. Each has trucks that drive around the city and blast out loud political speeches and pop songs. I can only imagine what this would be like in America if Barack Obama or Newt Gingrich did the same thing.
There are a number of other candidates running, but much like Pat Buchannan in America, none of them have a serious chance. There are at least 34 candidates total.
One of the minor candidates always makes me laugh. He's a very irate looking fellow with a nasty scowl on his face complete with bulging eyes and a ferocious underbite and sweat dripping down his face. One of my Thai friends says she's scared of him. I don't know who he is, so I call him the Angry Guy. Here is what his campaign posters look like:
I stumbled upon a political event for the Angry Guy and was quite surprised at what I saw. In the middle of the mall there was a tarped off section and a white robot was on display. People were throwing red and blue paint at the robot while a machine blared a political speech. Everyone stopped and stared. I have never seen anything like it.
There also is a very active "Vote No" (or "none of the above") campaign. They have a number of posters depicting the main two political parties as monsters, wild beasts, and even the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. They hold several concerts and events throughout the city. Here is what their political posters look like:
On this last one, it is interesting to note who the two figures are. On the right we have Abhisit, but on the left we have not Yingluck Shinawatra but Thaksin Shinawatra, her older brother. Thaksin was Thailand's prime minister from 2001 to 2006. He holds the title of being the one and only prime minister who was elected and served a full term. He was ousted during his second term in a military coup and has been in exile ever since. Many people feel that Yingluck is a stand-in for her popular yet controversial brother.
I think a "None of the Above" option is really needed in America. It would certainly get more disillusioned people to vote, and when you have a recount election like in 2000 or in Minnesota in 2008 you don't have people's ballots being thrown out because they didn't fill in a circle for every office.
Things since the last coup have been rough. Before I came to Thailand the first time in 2009, weeks before the airport in Bangkok was seized and shut down by a massive group of protesters. Last year a group of protesters were attacked by armed soldiers leaving some 90 people dead. Before I came back to Thailand, an attempted assassination was made on member of parliament.
We see around the world in places like Thailand, the Middle East, Wisconsin, and many other places much political upheaval. My theory is we're seeing a global political restructiring. We're seeing old power systems being challenged from people all over the political spectrum. What these old power systems will be replaced with, I don't know. Whether it's for the good or the better, I don't know.