Thailand is a constitutional monarchy based on parliamentary democracy. Thailand (official name: Kingdom of Thailand) has a history of being governed, off and on, by military; the most recent being the army coup of September 2006. Thus an environment of political instability prevails in the country.
The King is the chief of the state. The monarch is hereditary. King has little direct power but commands enormous popular respect and moral authority which he has used on occasion to resolve political crises that have threatened national stability. Following national elections for the lower house of the parliament, the leader of the party that can organize a majority coalition is appointed as Prime Minister by the King for a four-year term. Prime Minister is the head of the government and holds all the executive powers including implementation of the law in the country and running the day-to-day affairs. The cabinet is appointed by the King on recommendation of the Prime Minister.
The legislature in Thailand is bicameral. The parliament called National Assembly consists of: Senate (the upper house) having 200 seats with its members elected by popular vote to serve six-year terms and the House of Representatives (the lower house) having 500 seats with its members elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms. The executive branch of government is directly or indirectly dependent on the support of the parliament, often expressed through a vote of confidence. Government cannot veto the acts passed by the parliament.
When not under military rule, the people of Thailand enjoy considerable political rights. The coup of September 2006 has taken place after 15 years of civilian and democratically-elected governments.
When under civilian rule, judiciary is generally regarded as independent though it is subject to corruption and heavy backlog of cases. The main source of law in the country is the new constitution of October 1997. The legal system is based on civil law system. Thailand has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction. Thai is the judicial language used in Thailand, though English is widely used. When under civilian rule, Thailand is largely ruled by law. Foreign nationals can normally expect impartial trial from the country’s judicial system. Official corruption is widespread in the country. It is also alleged that the nexus between politics and big business is strong and growing.
Major political parties
Thailand has a multi-party system. The major political parties in the country are:
- TRT (Thai Rak Thai Party) – has no clear ideological platform, but is commonly described as a ‘populist’ party;
- DP (Democratic Party) – the oldest party in the country, opposes any kind of military dictatorship, pro-democracy;
- TNP (Thai Nation Party) – a conservative nationalist party;
- Great People's Party – advocates left-wing ideology.
Major political leaders
King: PHUMIPHON Adunyadet (since June 1946) – hereditary
Interim Prime Minister: Surayud Chulanont – retired army General
On September 19, 2006, the military led by the army commander-in-chief, General Sonthi Boonyaratglin, seized power in a bloodless coup while the then Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was attending the UN General Assembly. An interim constitution was introduced which gave army the power to hire and fire the government as well as the acting parliament. Retired General Surayud Chulanont was appointed as the interim Prime Minister. He will govern until elections which are expected in October 2007.
Next political election dates
Senate: April 2012
House of Representatives: Year 2011