[This is an excerpt from a report originally written on June 27, 2011.]
Assuming a Pheu Thai win, there are two possible outcomes: a Pheu Thai-led government or a government much like the one now—with the Democrats as a leading party and perhaps a compromise PM like Sanan. There are many permutations of these two outcomes and many ways the establishment can block Pheu Thai, but it essentially boils down to these two options.
The deciding factor is military confidence that they can brave the immediate street protests that would ensue if Pheu Thai is blocked from power.
The Democrats, as is their style, have apparently run a very conservative and ineffective campaign. The recent Democrat rally pointing out the links between the Pheu Thai and violent Red Shirts probably increased Pheu Thai popularity. This is because the Thai inclination is to feel sorry for any party (rightly accused or otherwise) who are being put at a disadvantage.
With the Pheu Thai apparently surging, it is possible that the military would take the path of least resistance and allow Pheu Thai to form a government.
In 2008 the last Thaksin-directed party came to power, but failed to gain both momentum and legitimacy since it refused to govern until constitutional amendment absolving Thaksin were passed. We would expect Pheu Thai to not repeat the mistakes of 2008, but try to take power as a normal government and legislate—gaining both legitimacy and popularity—particularly if they make it clear that policies and direction of the government were coming from Thaksin.
With the military on edge about Thaksin intent towards it and the highest institution, this might be the best strategy for the Pheu Thai—build legitimacy and popularity as a base to eventually declare reconciliation has been achieved. Then measures could begin which would include the exoneration of Thaksin. The Pheu Thai have every reason to play nice—meanwhile the establishment faces many uncertainties.
A Pheu Thai government would be a bitter and frightening pill to swallow for many. The same Red Shirt leaders who besieged Bangkok and called on the city to be burned are high on the Pheu Thai Party list and will certainly become MPs. The political opposition and the media will be wary of a return to the past when the media was pressured to praise the government and those who criticized the government came under constant threat of libel suits.
The top military and police brass will be feeling uncertain and must be pre-planning their responses to surprise replacement orders from the government. Twice annual military reshuffles would once again become the occasion for bitter recriminations and occasional violence as pro-Thaksin figures are reshuffled back into top positions. Most coups have taken place because those in these groups feared being replaced and acted proactively to prevent it.
During the People Power Party year in power in 2008, anti-monarchy statements were repeatedly made at Red Shirt rallies as the government was trying to pressure the establishment on absolving Thaksin. Expect this sort of tact to continue if things heat up.
A Pheu Thai government means much less immediate chaos, but instead a long, drawn out struggle including legal and procedural challenges to mute the government’s power. Military pressure on coalition parties could be used to force a government collapse at a key time (and perhaps trigger a re-formed government with the Democrats leading again).
Other recent reports related to the election:
This series released June 1-3, 2011:
Part 1 Returning the Nation to a Future Past
Part 2 Scenarios for Government
Part 3 The Fate of the True Believers
Part 4 Possibilities for Violence
Part 5 The Upshot: Resurgence of the Military
April 22, 2011: The Crusade to Minimize Thaksin