BANGKOK (Reuters) – Thai protesters, led by student groups, are returning to the streets calling for the ousting of the government less than two years after a general election was held. One group has openly criticised the monarchy, in a rare show of defiance.
FILE PHOTO: Thai students protest against a court’s decision that dissolved the country’s second largest opposition Future Forward party, less than a year after an election to end direct military rule, at Mahidol University, outside Bangkok, Thailand February 25, 2020. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun/File photo
Here are the major events that have led up to these protests:
May 22, 2014 – Military stages a coup, ousting an elected government for the second time in a decade, citing the need to restore order in the face of street demonstrations against a populist government linked to telecoms tycoon Thaksin Shinawatra, who himself was ousted in a coup in 2006.
Oct. 13, 2016 – Constitutional monarch King Bhumibol Adulyadej dies after a 70-year reign. His son becomes King Maha Vajiralongkorn.
April 6, 2017 – A military-backed constitution is ratified after being approved in a referendum, with changes requested by King Vajiralongkorn that increased his powers, paving the way for an election.
Feb. 7, 2019 – The king rebukes his sister, Princess Ubolratana, over a Thaksin-linked party’s nomination of her as its candidate for prime minister. The party is later dissolved by a court before the election.
March 24, 2019 – General elections held amid complaints of cheating and vote-buying. Former army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha, who led the 2014 coup and was then prime minister of a military government, heads a pro-army party that wins the most votes.
Nov. 20, 2019 – Court disqualifies rising opposition figure Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, leader of the Future Forward Party, from parliament prompting thousands to rally in Bangkok.
Jan. 12, 2020 – More than 12,000 people join an anti-government “Run Against Dictatorship” in the biggest show of dissent since the 2014 coup. A rival group holds a run in support of Prayuth.
Feb. 21 – Future Forward Party is banned for illegally taking a loan from its billionaire leader, Thanathorn, prompting small student protests on university campuses.
March 22 – Given restrictions to stop the novel coronavirus, student protests peter out but online criticism of government continues, with some also directing criticism at the king. The hashtag “#whydoweneedaking?” is posted more than 1 million times.
June 8 – Small protests held to call for an investigation into the disappearance of an exiled government critic in Cambodia.
June 15 – Prayuth warns political activists not to criticise the monarchy.
June 24 – Protesters gather to mark the anniversary of the end of absolute monarchy in 1932.
July 18 – About 2,500 protesters gather at Democracy Monument, one of the largest demonstrations since the coup, calling for the dissolution of parliament and new elections.
Aug. 4 – Speakers call for the monarchy’s power to be curbed at a rally attended by hundreds in Bangkok.
Reporting by Chayut Setboonsarng; Editing by Robert Birsel
Horgan says election will create stability, opposition calls it ‘politics at its worst’ – Energeticcity.ca
B.C. Premier John Horgan called a snap fall election on Monday, a move widely determined to be taking a bet he can gain a majority government despite the risk it could alienate voters by taking them to the polls during the pandemic.
Reaction from B.C.’s opposition parties to the writ being dropped was scathing.
Calling the move cynical, BC Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson said Horgan was putting politics before people by calling an election during the pandemic.
“For no good reason whatsoever, we’re now being forced into a general election that nobody in British Columbia wants except the NDP,” Wilkinson said Monday.
The NDP also passed legislation providing for fixed election dates, the next slated for October 2021, he added.
“And now (Horgan) has torn it all to shreds for his own personal interest,” Wilkinson said.
The NDP leader announced the election will take place Oct. 24, with advance polls starting seven days prior.
Horgan is hoping to capitalize on his current popularity due to his handling of the pandemic, said Hamish Telford, a University of the Fraser Valley political science professor.
“I think the principal reason for holding the election now is that they are riding very high in the polls,” Telford said Monday.
Horgan was ranked the country’s most popular premier with an approval rating of 69 per cent, according to a poll released Monday by Maru/Blue Canada Inc.
The NDP leader said he struggled with the decision to hold an election, but emphasized it would lead to stability and certainty for the next government dealing with the pandemic in the coming year.
“We can either delay that decision and create uncertainty and instability over the next 12 months … or we can do what I believe is always the right thing and ask British Columbians what they think.”
The public has been broadly supportive of the B.C. government’s handing of the pandemic, particularly in the early months of the public health emergency, Telford said.
However, as winter approaches and the health crisis and economic repercussions deepen, Horgan’s popularity will likely begin to slide, Telford said
“From here on in, things are going to get more difficult,” he said.
This month, B.C. has been recording some of the highest daily case numbers since the start of the pandemic, and flu season is around the corner, Telford added.
“So, I think Horgan wants to go now, rather than later,” he said.
Plus, the NDP leader might be anticipating, and want to avoid coinciding with, a federal election next year, Telford added.
The premier had led a minority government with a support agreement in place with the BC Green Party. But to obtain a majority, the NDP must win at least four additional seats above the 41 seats they have now, Telford said.
B.C. Green Party Leader Sonia Furstenau, new to her role as of last week, said Horgan was putting his political fortune ahead of the health and safety of British Columbians.
Premier Horgan has a stable government, said Furstenau, in a statement Monday.
“I met with him on Friday and made it clear that we were willing to continue to work together in the best interest of British Columbians,” Furstenau said.
“For the next month, his ministers will be on the campaign trail instead of working with the Provincial Health Officer to manage this pandemic, which as we know changes daily.”
“This is politics at its worst,” she added.
Wilkinson put it down to misplaced politics saying people are worried about their jobs, kids and health due to the pandemic and that it was a time for stability, not politics.
“We’ve all got to wonder about the current premier, who has an ironclad deal with the Green Party to govern for another 13 months,” Wilkinson said.
Horgan’s move to call an election to obtain a majority government entails considerable risk, Telford said.
“The risk is that the gamble won’t pay off,” Telford said.
“Yes, he’s riding very high in the polls, but when I look at the election map, it’s difficult to see where the NDP can pick up seats that gets it to a majority.”
Though it’s seeking increased stability, the NDP might end up with another minority government, but this time without the guaranteed cooperation of the Greens at a time when the pandemic’s impacts will be more significant, Telford added.
“It could precipitate something of a political crisis,” he said.
B.C. recorded 366 new COVID-19 cases over the previous three days, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry reported on Monday afternoon.
Henry acknowledged the election announcement, but stated the province’s pandemic response would continue uninterrupted.
She and deputy health minister Stephen Brown will continue to be in close contact with Adrian Dix, health minister previous to the election call, and Carole James, the cabinet member not running in the election, acting as caretaker for government affairs during the election campaign, said Henry.
This will ensure ongoing management of any issues arising due to the pandemic, she added.
Work has also been done with Elections BC throughout the pandemic to prepare for safe elections, Henry said.
“The guidelines that we’ve come up with include how political parties and their candidates need to keep themselves, their staff and volunteers, and their community safe during the campaign,” Henry said.
There will also be measures during the election process to ensure everybody remains safe, she added.
Henry said she plans to meet with B.C. Chief Electoral Officer Anton Boegman Tuesday to provide the public with more details about the COVID-19 safety election plan.
Rochelle Baker/Local Journalism Initiative/ Canada’s National Observer
U.S. Ambassador to Netherlands Questioned About Political Interference – The New York Times
BRUSSELS — One of President Trump’s most outspoken ambassadors has found himself in a new controversy after co-hosting a fund-raiser for a populist far-right Dutch political party in the American Embassy in the Netherlands. The act appears to breach diplomatic protocol because of its involvement with domestic politics in the host nation.
The ambassador, Pete Hoekstra — whose 2017 appointment to the role drew criticism over his earlier remarks that the Netherlands had “no-go zones” of Muslim-ruled enclaves — hosted a party at the embassy on Sept. 10 along with the Forum for Democracy Party, a group that is euroskeptic, identitarian and highly critical of the impact of Islam on European and Dutch society.
A native of the Netherlands, Mr. Hoekstra, 66, has both amused and annoyed many in the country with comments that align with the views of the Forum for Democracy. A conservative former Republican congressman from Michigan who helped found the Tea Party caucus, he was appointed ambassador to the Netherlands by President Trump.
To host a political fund-raiser would, on its face, be interference in domestic politics and a violation of the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.
The State Department has not yet responded to a request for comment, though officials said that the episode was being overplayed and that the embassy engaged with many political parties.
An invitation to the event was sent out in the name of “the Forum for Democracy and Pete Hoekstra,” according to the Dutch magazine De Groene Amsterdammer, which earlier reported the story. Many of the approximately 40 guests were entrepreneurs, and the invitations included contact details for the party’s head of fund-raising, the magazine said.
Some Dutch lawmakers on the center-left were highly critical. Sjoerd Wiemer Sjoerdsma, the foreign-policy spokesman for Democrats 66, a liberal party in the coalition government, on Tuesday called for the Foreign Ministry to investigate whether Mr. Hoekstra had “facilitated a fund-raising event for a political party.”
Sven Koopmans, the foreign-policy spokesman for Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy, was less exercised. He noted in Parliament that Mr. Hoekstra had worked on events with other political parties, but said that if the embassy had been used for a fund-raising event for Thierry Baudet, the Forum for Democracy leader, or if Mr. Baudet had used the event for those purposes, “that would not be proper.”
Mr. Hoekstra’s appointment to the diplomatic role drew controversy over remarks he made in 2015 that the Netherlands had “no-go zones” of Muslim enclaves outside government control and that politicians and cars were being set on fire there because of radical Islam. He denied having made those remarks, but later conceded that he had done so and issued an apology.
Mr. Baudet, 37, founded his party in 2016 as a right-wing organization more palatable to the middle class than the Party for Freedom of Geert Wilders. Mr. Baudet has good relations with the far-right nationalist Vlaams Belang party in Flanders, and while his party holds only two out of 150 seats in Parliament, it did well in regional elections last year and is rising in opinion polls.
Mr. Baudet favors the Netherlands exiting the European Union and adding limits on immigration. He has also been highly critical of the influence of Islam, though unlike Mr. Wilders, he says he does not wish to ban the Quran.
Explainer: Malaysia's political maneuvering, next episode – TheChronicleHerald.ca
KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – A year of Malaysian political maneuvering has taken another turn with opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim saying he now has enough support in parliament to be able to form a government and replace Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin.
DOES THIS MEAN ANWAR BECOMES PRIME MINISTER?
No. It’s far from certain Anwar will take the position he has tried to get for more than two decades.
Anwar’s first step needs to be convincing the king he has the support of the majority of lawmakers. To do that he would need to see the king, who is currently hospitalised, though not for a serious problem.
The king could make him premier if he is convinced Anwar can command a majority, or he could dissolve parliament and trigger elections on the prime minister’s advice.
So far, no major political party has come out in support of him.
Major parties in Muhyiddin’s coalition dismissed his claim as “cheap publicity” and said they firmly supported the premier.
Anwar’s own party only has 38 lawmakers – which means he would need to win over other parties or factions within them to get majority support from the 222-seat parliament.
HOW DID IT GET TO THIS POINT?
Malaysian politics tumbled into turmoil in February when Anwar’s perennial rival, nonagenarian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad resigned in a growing power struggle within their alliance that won a surprise victory in a 2018 election.
Both ended up sidelined while Muhyiddin emerged as prime minister of a government in which the biggest party is the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) – which ruled Malaysia for decades until 2018 and to which Anwar, Mahathir and Muhyiddin all once belonged.
But Muhyiddin’s position has remained precarious with a single digit majority in parliament, while UMNO withdrew some of its backing after former leader and former Prime Minister Najib Razak was found guilty of corruption in the multi-billion 1MDB scandal.
The opposition, including Anwar and Mahathir, had vowed to oust him, saying he won power by shifting alliances instead of earning it at the ballot box.
HOW DO THE POLITICAL FORCES STACK UP?
Malaysian politics revolves around coalitions, but the strongest single party is likely to be UMNO – which stands for the interests of majority Malays in the multi-ethnic country.
Although it was voted out amid anger over the 1MDB scandal in 2018, it has improved its showing at more recent by-elections. Many Malays were unhappy with what they saw as too much focus on non-Malay interests, and particularly those of ethnic Chinese, under the Mahathir-Anwar coalition. Anwar remains allied to a largely Chinese party.
Kingmakers in any coalition, whether through elections or not, could well be the parties from Sabah and Sarawak on the island of Borneo – who have long asked for more autonomy and a bigger share of oil and gas revenues from state oil giant Petronas.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR THE ECONOMY?
Malaysia’s economy plunged into its first contraction since the 2009 global financial crisis as a result of the impact of the coronavirus on trade and tourism.
While all governments are likely to promise large stimulus packages, political turmoil could hold up prospects for delivering on them and being able to find the financing for them.
If whoever forms a government is beholden to the Borneo parties, that could also mean that central government revenues take a heavier knock as they could end up getting smaller revenue from Petronas.
Muhyiddin, whose coalition relies on the ruling coalition from Sarawak for support, had already agreed to pay a sales tax they demanded and had shown willing to give them a bigger share of revenues.
(Writing by Matthew Tostevin; Editing by Martin Petty)
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