The sensational victory in the Sakon Nakhon by-election by Puea Thai is, of course, being presented by the media as the result of a clash of personalities – voters preferred to favour former PM Thaksin over the turncoat Newin Chidchob, whose Bhunjaithai Party has made various promises for building sports grounds and providing ambulance teams for local villages which, it seems, very few people really believed he had any intention of really doing.
Since the focus is on personalities rather than policies, we can expect the next few days or weeks (depending on how soon the next big story comes along) to be dominated by talk of making protests to the Election Commission (EC) about the involvement of Khun Thaksin, who was banned from politics by one of the previous in-no-way directed from above EC decisions. Expect rather fewer stories about the involvement of equally-banned Newin himself.
This all detracts from the real story of this election: the people of Thailand have, once again, voted for democracy. They have seen what happens when a party for which they voted won power (fairly and squarely) and that is what they want. They have also seen what happens to innocent pro-democracy supporters when they are suppressed by state-sanctioned violence (and they also know Newin’s shameful role in that violence) (allegedly). They have voted accordingly.
Will it make any difference? Well, looming on the horizon is the possible downfall of the Abhisit regime as a result of a score or more Ministers and MPs being disqualified by the EC for holding shares in government concessions they are not supposed to hold. 16 senators have already been convicted (not sure if this is a final decision or whether appeals are possible or what, frankly, will happen). There seems to be no chance of the Democrats ruling on their own so either Abhisit will be told to give up the ghost (if the military has its own party ready for the next election) or the evils of money politics will multiply as Abhisit is instructed to cling to power at whatever cost to the country.