Boycoting Thailand’s Elections: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Following up on my recent post on election boycotts, I have a new post at the University of Nottingham’s China Policy Institute Blog. Here’s how it begins.

Thailand’s political crisis shows no signs of abating in the wake of its recent elections. Careful analyses by longtime observers such as Duncan McCargo and Thongchai Winichakul remind us that the main axis of conflict is between conservative, Bangkok-centered interests and the newly assertive voters of the provinces. Many issues are implicated in this conflict: the monarchy, the military, the judiciary, elite corruption, regional inequality, popular voice, and the fruits of development in a changing Thailand.

However, it is also possible to view the Thai political crisis in more abstract terms by focusing on the opposition’s boycott of the February 2 elections and what it reveals about the state of democracy in Thailand. This does not mean ignoring the substantive political conflict described by McCargo, Thongchai, and others: that is integral to what follows, as should be clear. Nevertheless, focusing on the boycotts as what I have recently described as procedural politics brings into sharp relief the good, the bad, and the ugly of contemporary Thai politics.