The Nation
Published on March 13, 2009

For three years Thai politics was unequivocally polarised. With the People's Alliance for Democracy pondering trans-formation into a political party, are we heading back to the days of a fractious landscape where no-one was secure and all any-body could hope for was enough power to bargain?

A triangle of parliamentary powers featuring the Democrats, the PAD and the Pheu Thai Party would be interesting, not to mention the "lesser" forces who should wel-come the realignment with open arms. Newin Chidchob and Snoh Thienthong, for example, would love to see a complete return to the good old days when a faction of 12 MPs could make or break gov-ernments and force House dis-solution.

How much should the Democrats be worried? Just a little, as long as Thaksin Shinawatra remains on the loose. Yes, the PAD has been bitter about getting scarce rewards from putting the Democrats in the corridors of power, and yes, the movement is getting increasingly restless over how Suthep Thaugsuban is managing things. But the government is still a long way from being a monster the PAD created. And even if one day the relationship breaks down completely, the PAD will face a big dilemma, simply because undermining the Democrats means reinforcing Pheu Thai and its dreaded long-distance boss.

Joining parliamentary politics will take away considerable leverage from the PAD, not least because it will be a politi-cal force on a rigid platform. A Democrat-Pheu Thai alliance would be an obscene scenario, but it's not unthinkable. A PAD-Pheu Thai marriage, however, could never happen. Therefore, a PAD party, tentatively named Candle of Righteousness, is likely to end up being right-eous but lonely.

Some analysts say the PAD will base its decision not only on domestic political factors but also on the numbers in Thaksin's bank accounts. Whispered rumours about the fugitive former leader's deteri-orating financial health are get-ting louder, and there are those in the PAD who believe that if Thaksin is out of the equation, it will be a lot easier for the movement to liberate itself from the Democrats.

But if the PAD is true to its "new politics" agenda, the Democrats will be the least of its concerns. With Pheu Thai and factions like Snoh's and Newin's always trying to assert themselves, pushing for politi-cal reform by becoming a force like them will be an arduous task because it will be a totally new ball game for the PAD.

The PAD can choose to stay in the triangle by remaining outside mainstream politics. Whatever its next move, the question is: how can John Rambo adjust himself to a normal life after returning from a war?