Thailand is scheduled for a general election on Sunday May 14 2023.
If you think this article is going to be about ‘democracy’ vs ‘dictatorship,’ please find other articles to read. There are a ton of them online, based on your preference, most of which are just parroting from other articles.
I find them tedious.
They are almost always never original.
This article, rather, is a reflection of my experience so far in Thai politics.
A political party, like any organisation, is intimately human in the sense that you are dealing with humans, not robots or cyborgs.
And just like any human organisation (whether private firm, bureaucracy, state enterprise, or sports team), there is a hierarchy.
In Thai politics (and probably elsewhere), politicians can be grouped into three classes. There are ‘grade A’ politicians — seasoned politicians with a large voting base. ‘Grade B’ politicians have some experience in the field but aren’t that popular. Then there are ‘grade C’ — the newbies, unknown to the voters.
Since I’m new, I am considered ‘grade C.’
To be sure, a grade A doesn’t necessarily equate to quality. He may be an asshole that got into power by buying his way in, with zero contribution to policy offerings, with no accomplishments for his constituency.
His dad or mum may have been a politician.
I recall about 10 years ago there was this old Thai politician (ex-police general). When questioned on the floor in the parliament, he stood up and simply said “I’m not much of a speaker.” Then sat down.
So much for a debate.
I have been in two political parties.
The first one didn’t last long as it hit a snag, resulting in members moving to other parties.
Here is the key: I have come to realise that the back office, or the operations, is crucial to a party’s success.
In military jargon, the tooth-to-tail ratio is the amount of military personnel required (tail) to support each combat soldier (tooth). In WW1, for every combat soldier, there was 2.6 supporting staff. In WW2, the ratio increased to 1: 4. In George W. Bush’s Iraq war, it was 1: 8. Thus, as time advanced, and with developing technology and capability, there was a need for more supporting staff per combat soldier.
In medieval Europe, say you were a foot soldier in battle. Your support staff might only be the archers. (Once the archers ran out of arrows, you were screwed.)
Fast forward to now, a combat soldier in the middle of the enemy’s terrain will have drone support, satellites, and dozens of staff in the military base thousands of kilometers away guiding him. They can see and hear him from his attached cams and communication devices.
In the same way, just as politicians are “combat soldiers” they require teams of supporting personnel.
The same goes for a political party. It needs accountants, HR, clerks, PR team, graphic designers, content creators, journalists, secretaries, managers, drivers, event organisers, “fixers” and many more roles.
These people are crucial to the political party’s success. Their contribution cannot be underestimated.
My political party went through several hiccups. I only learned two days before that there was a change of schedule. Which meant I had to cancel my flight and hotel and made last-minute changes.
Moreover, once at the party, it was hectic. 400 political candidates from 76 provinces plus Bangkok flocked in to hand in their forms. We were rushed into the studio to have our photos taken. We ordered our political jackets and polo shirts. The staff clearly were trying their best to manage us all along with the volume of documents. Some of them had been working until very late into the night.
Granted, things won’t be stable until we submit our political candidacies to the Election Commission — between 3 -7 April 2023, with the latter, having checked all the legal requirements, confirming our candidacy in the race.
Many candidates are lobbying for a position in Bangkok now much like in Washington, D.C. before presidential election.
Now, let’s imagine an ideal situation.
I walk into the headquarter.“Good morning Mr. Edward.”
“I believe you are running for Chiang Mai constituency. Please follow me.”
Once in the room: She hands me a pen to sign all the documents she had prepared in advance. Then she hands me the jacket in my size, escorts me to the photo studio.
Once finished, she says “Looks like everything is in order.”
“Is there anything else I can help you with?”
“Here is the key to your hotel room. The driver will pick you up outside. See you tomorrow at the conference.”
AI-run political party. Image credit: Andrey_Popov/Shutterstock.com
OK, back to reality.
It then dawned on me that companies like Apple must have the best operational and supporting team to produce world-class products like iPhone.
Just imagine the components that go into the iPhone, sourced from dozens of countries. The battery, cameras, light sensors, microphone, speaker, audio jack, sim card tray, case, chips, circuits etc.
Thinking about this made me grateful for human ingenuity and the world’s global supply chain and logistics. Without these, we’ll still be living in caves.
Politics, like business and war, must be an organised well-oiled machine to succeed. The logistics and coordination effort must be tight, while agile enough to face the dynamic nature of politics.
Whichever party has a stronger organizational capability and supporting team will have a competitive advantage over others, all else equal.