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Understanding the Unrest in Thailand, Ukraine, Belgium and Egypt


Democratic elections in Thailand, Ukraine, Belgium and Egypt no longer represent a peaceful means for the selection of leaders. When voting minority groups refuse to accept defeat and attempt to topple the leaders who have been legitimately elected by the majority the one-man-one-vote system becomes dysfunctional. In Thailand, the political party led by Thaksin Shinawatra won 40.6 percent of popular vote in the 2001 general election. In 2005 and 2007 they captured 56.4 percent and 36.6 percent respectively. Despite the consistent choices of the majority, the legally elected government was overthrown by a coup in 2006. In order to demolish the “Thaksin regime,” Suthep Thaugsuban has suggested bypassing the democratic process altogether.

In Ukraine, division between pro-Russian and pro-European Union sides has also brought the state into chaos. Unlike in Thailand, there is a lack of a definite majority. When Viktor Yanukovych exercised his presidential authority to scrap a pact for “closer integration with the 28-nation European Union” in November 2013, his opponents could not afford to wait for the next general election. Hundreds of thousands of pro-EU citizens have been protesting ever since.

The cultural and linguistic split between the Dutch-speaking and French-speaking communities in Belgium left the state without a government hundreds of days from 2007-11 continually. Although a democratic election did generate a Dutch majority in the Belgian Chamber, the various regional dissenters are unlikely to be satisfied by the art of political negotiation for a compromise. Elio Di Rupo’s premiership is temporary and transitional. The July 2013 coup that toppled Mohammed Morsi in Egypt is a clear sign that an election cannot settle the polarization between the Muslim Brotherhood and their opponents.

It is evident that the standoffs derived from geographical differences, cultural gaps or religious tensions have paralyzed governance around the globe. However, there is an alternative. The “Helmsman Ruler System” - a modern, pragmatic and experimental version of Plato’s rotational ruler system has been working in China rather smoothly since the 1980s. Teams of competent politicians take turns leading the state. In Thailand, the rulers would be those who have served at the local government level in both urban and rural areas, and have won the praises of office managers, white-collar workers and rice farmers. In Ukraine, an inclusive team of helmsman rulers who are able to cater to diverse regional needs would govern the state. In Belgium, the Dutch-speaking and French-speaking leaders can rule the state in rotation so as to balance the interests of the two different linguistic communities. In Egypt, well-trained administrators will work with the leaders of various religious groups. China’s success with Plato’s rotational ruler system proves that it is neither remote nor idealistic.