Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A force for democracy...

not.

Gideon Rachman of the Financial Times hits the nail on the head:

Remember all those theories about how the emergence of an urban middle-classes is a force for democratisation, because the bourgeoise will demand political rights? Well, in Thailand the precise opposite is happening. The urban middle-classes are rising up and demanding that democracy be rescinded.

Do not be fooled by the fact that the group occupying the airport call themselves the "People's Alliance for Democracy". Their intent is clearly anti-democratic. They have just brought down an elected government. Their broader demands are for Thailand's directly-elected parliament to be replaced by a legislative body that is 70% appointed. Sondhi Limthongkul, a Thai tycoon (Thaicoon?), who is the group's de facto leader says bluntly that - "Representative democracy is not suitable for Thailand."

The middle-class backers of the PAD hate the fact that under universal suffrage, the votes of the rural poor in the north of Thailand are usually decisive. They see this as a formula for corruption and pork-barrel politics. Hence, their desire to roll back democracy.

The implications for China are fascinating. There too the urban middle-class seem to be emerging as a conservative force, suspicious of democracy and the peasant power that it might unleash.