27 September 2006

Defining democracy

En route to Bangkok Airport I passed Government House and a couple of rows of tanks parked behind metal barrier fences. Most of the tanks were garlanded with flowers and young couples took each other's photos with the tanks as backdrop. The Thai coup d'etat brings home the difficulty of defining the important features of democracy. Mr Thaksin, the deposed Thai Prime Minister had installed his placemen in the Senate, the law courts, and the Electoral Commission. Through, as far as I can tell, legitimate means, he controlled a high proportion of Thai media. Most recently, and this might have precipitated the coup, he wanted to appoint his army classmates to top positions in the Thai military. It's difficult to anticipate and guard against all abuses of power. New Zealand's three-year period between elections, which does have disadvantages, may be one helpful weapon against them.

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