Elections no magic cure for Thai political crisis

Elections no magic cure for Thai political crisis

BANGKOK - The huge show of strength on Bangkok's streets Monday by anti-government demonstrators determined to eradicate the hated "Thaksin regime" is a stark sign that elections may not end Thailand's bitter political conflict, experts say.

After weeks of protests, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra announced on Monday that she would dissolve the lower house and hold a general election.

But for many of her 140,000 opponents who thronged the streets of the capital, ridding Thailand of the influence of Yingluck and her older brother Thaksin - a divisive former premier ousted in a coup seven years ago - is a bigger priority than upholding democracy.

"We don't want elections," said Kamlai Supradith, 70, who has been protesting for more than a month.

"We want to chase the whole family out. They are bad. They ruin this country and they don't even respect the King... we have to dig out the root," Kamlai added.

In recent years, Thai society's deep class and geographic based-divisions have crystallised into visceral hatred between the mostly rural, working class supporters of Thaksin and the royalist urban middle class and elite who loath him.

Pro-Thaksin parties have won every election since 2001, most recently with a landslide victory under Yingluck in 2011 with her brother in self-imposed exile.

Stung by repeated defeats at the ballot box, it seems "the anti-government protesters are after a more absolute and perfect democracy which would not involve what we normally associate with democracy, like elections," said Thai-based academic and author David Streckfuss.

A national unity government after the polls could be a possibility - but so too is a military coup, although the latter option is less likely, he added.

"The military remembers the 2006 coup did not achieve its goal of getting rid of Thaksin. In fact, the coup played a role in politically awakening Thaksin supporters. A new coup would likely be met with resistance and lead to further polarisation," he said.

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