I December 2013 I had written a blog post analyzing a series of surveys conducted at political rallies and it’s implication for Democratic Development in Thailand, stating my concern that a significant part of the PDRC supporters support authoritarian rule and this could lead to a slide in Democracy. With more recent data, post-coup, prospects for democratic consolidation is actually worse than what had been anticipated.
TL;DR: For democracy to survive, 70% of mass public needs to be committed to it. Only 3.10% of Thais are.
The issue of commitments
Professor Diamond in his lecture on Democratic Development, a course offered on Coursera states in one of his lectures that “… democracy can be consolidated at the mass level. When the vast majority of the public, I would say at least 70%, consistently believe, that democracy is preferable to any other form of government as a general principal.” I highly recommend you take time to watch the following lecture:
One way of testing for commitment to democratic principles is through the Churchill Hypothesis. Churchill once famously stated that “democracy is the worst form of government ever invented by man. Except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” This allows us to test for commitment to democracy not as a direct experience of satisfaction, for example, “I hate democracy so I don’t support it” or “I love democracy so I supported” but a rejection of all other non-democratic forms of government such as “I will always find unelected leaders to be unacceptable”. This demonstrates the true level of commitment to democratic principles. More information is available in the following lecture (which I also highly recommend):
Nida conducted a poll between the 20-21st June 2014 after the
coup military initiative to restore happiness to the people of Thailand where they asked the participants who should the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) appoint as the next Prime Minister where a list of Prime Ministers was proposed but also they included this: “Anyone honest, can solve national problems and is elected democratically” which is a classic test of the Churchill Hypothesis since all the other choices are non-democratic. This choice got the support of 3.10% of the participants, well below the 70% threshold required to sustain democracy.
This does not prove that Thai people don’t want democracy, nor does it prove that democracy is not right for Thailand but what it shows is that democratic education has failed miserably. What these number show is that understanding of democracy is superficial at best and after all these years there is still a very weak democratically oriented political culture which will lead to a democratic breakdown. Democracy advocacy groups need to call it a day, go back to the drawing board and come up with a new approach and any expectations of mass uprising against the NCPO would be quite misplaced.
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