It’s said that no-hope political parties in general elections are the sign of a healthy and confident democracy. This is presumably why there aren’t any in Myanmar, Vietnam or Cambodia. Thailand may not exactly be a fully-fledged democracy with its track record of frequent military interventions, but the fringe parties are alive and kicking in the 2023 general election. Altogether, there are 67 registered parties, most of them not exactly household names.
The Plean Anakot Party (Changing Future) has a single-issue policy to uplift the livelihood of Thai people with disabilities, many of whom are not registered and cannot access government services. This reflects the main thrust of political fringe groups in Thailand to publicize a particular “wrong” in order to raise its profile. Then there’s the Ruamjaithai or United Thai Heart party which is committed to the nationalization of all Thai energy – oil, gas and electricity – and share the mega-bucks profits with the citizenry.
Anakot Thai (Future Thailand) is fielding just one candidate, but promising to eliminate all toxic dust and smog from the atmosphere by passing new laws. All the best with that one. The Plean or Change party prefers to expand enormously the state lottery to 10 billion number combinations with the allure of many more loans for start-up businesses. Controversially, the Neung party (Thai No 1) proposes to legalize the sale of e-cigarettes. The Klong Thai party (Thai Canal) intends to dig the Kra Isthmus which will bring in trillions of revenue although, to be fair, its motto is Mission Impossible.
Yet none of this can compare with British general elections and its political fringe. The Raving Monster Looney Party has been putting up candidates for 40 years. There is absolutely no intention to win a parliamentary seat with policies such as a fast-track railway line to the Falklands or making aetheism a state charity (a non-prophet organization). The current leader Howling Laud Hope has said that if any candidate did actually come close to winning a seat, he or she would be sacked for not being looney enough.
God-botherers and Elvis
There is also the Transcendental Meditation party whose candidate at an election count in outer London said, “Oh look, someone actually voted for me.” The longest name of a political party might be the Money Free Party Resources Shared Equitably Party whose policies make Karl Marx’ Communist Manifesto look like a conservative tract. God-botherers are in business too with the forming of the Church of Militant Elvis Party which toys with the idea that the idol survived his own death in 1977. Sometimes, fringe parties are counter-productive in marketing terms. In several elections, the National Front competed with the British National Party for the anti-immigrant vote, but succeeded only in losing both deposits.
The differences between fringe parties in Thailand and UK are striking. Humor is present in Thailand, but much of it inferred rather than stated, whereas in Britain craziness is an accepted part of the proceedings as a tension-reducing mechanism. In Thailand, there is usually a single policy blueprint, or attention seeker, but it must never be anti-royalist or anti-state religion to avoid treason charges. In the UK, some policy manifestoes run to over a hundred pages and comment on any and all features of public life.
Legalizing pot used to be fringe
In both countries, some long-standing fringe platforms actually became law once established parties took up the cudgel. Fringe parties adopted the cause of legalizing marijuana long before it became permissible to use it as a pain killer or an additive in food, although leisure smoking is still tinged with legal ambiguity. In a Thai general election of the 1990s, a Chonburi fringe candidate argued for traffic solutions which included an underground tunnel which eventually appeared on Pattaya’s Sukhumvit Road. In Britain, fringe parties argued for pet passports (actually a recommendation of the Raving Monster Loonies) and for extended daytime opening of pubs which became law in due course. The lesson is to be careful whom you vote for. It just might come true.