Though the eight-party coalition has resolved to put Move Forward leader Pita Limjaroenrat’s name forward again in the second vote for Thailand’s next premier, Pita and his party appear to be fighting a losing battle.
The two Houses of Parliament are scheduled to meet on Wednesday (July 19) for a second round of voting.
Pita failed to get enough votes in the first round last Thursday, particularly from senators, and his chances seem unlikely to improve despite protests by his supporters and Move Forward’s efforts to cling on to the second-largest coalition partner Pheu Thai for as long as possible.
Although he was the sole nominee for the top job last Thursday, Pita failed to secure majority support from the 500 MPs and 250 senators. He managed to win just 324 of the 375 votes he requires to become prime minister. Of the 705 lawmakers present, 182 voted against Pita and 199 abstained.
Some analysts see Move Forward’s latest political moves as a last-ditch effort to keep its promises, predicting they will fail and result in the party losing the chance to form a government and instead joining the opposition camp.
‘They are a different species’
Olarn Thinbangtieo, a lecturer at Burapha University’s Faculty of Political Science and Law, commented on Monday (July 17) after the first vote that it was unnatural for Move Forward and Pheu Thai to coexist in the same alliance. He forecasts the two parties will eventually part ways, with Pheu Thai forming the next government and Move Forward relegated to the opposition bench.
“Deep down, Pheu Thai and Move Forward can’t coexist. They are of a different species and their chemistry doesn’t match,” Olarn said.
He pointed out that both parties happen to be in the same coalition only due to their “pro-democracy” rhetoric. Also, Pheu Thai’s financiers share the same concerns about Move Forward as many of the senators who refused to vote for Pita, he said.
In his view, Pita is unlikely to gain enough support in the second round of voting since he will again have to rely mainly on senators for votes. The analyst said it will be more difficult to persuade senators to support him, especially after his party recently sought a constitutional amendment seeking to block senators from the PM vote.
Pheu Thai’s options
Olarn reckoned that as long as Pheu Thai does not have the courage to end the alliance, it effectively gives Move Forward the legitimacy for Pita to be nominated again and again.
Move Forward won the May 14 general election with 151 MP seats compared with runner-up Pheu Thai’s 141.
Pita has set conditions for him to step aside and allow Pheu Thai to nominate its own PM candidate. On Monday he said that if he failed to gain another 10% or more votes on Wednesday, Move Forward will retreat for Pheu Thai to present its own candidate.
Olarn said Pheu Thai already has the legitimacy to do this because Pita failed to get enough votes last week.
However, he believes that as long as Pheu Thai remains in coalition with Move Forward, its PM candidate is also unlikely to secure majority support in Parliament.
He said Pheu Thai’s only option if it wants its candidate elected as PM is to scrap the memorandum of understanding under which the eight-party alliance was formed. However, Pheu Thai would be “soaked in blood” in the eyes of many voters if it betrayed its main coalition partner, he added.
Still, he believes Pheu Thai will eventually go ahead and form a new coalition government with political parties from the outgoing government, while Move Forward will end up in opposition.
What Pita can learn from economic-crisis management to weather the political storm
More obstacles ahead
Another question is whether Pita can legally be nominated again for another parliamentary vote. Some senators say that renominating Pita is tantamount to submitting a motion twice in one session of Parliament – a breach of parliamentary regulations.
A vote may possibly be requested at the joint meeting of both Houses on Wednesday to decide if Pita’s nomination is equivalent to a repeat motion. However, House Speaker Wan Muhamad Noor Matha, who doubles as Parliament president, would have the power to overrule this and continue with the vote.
Wednesday’s parliamentary vote coincides with a meeting of the Constitutional Court to decide whether it will accept a petition against Pita filed by the Election Commission. The commission is seeking a ruling on Pita’s parliamentary status in relation to his shareholding in iTV, Thailand’s first independent broadcaster.
The Constitution prohibits an MP candidate from being an owner or shareholder of a media company. ITV, which ran a television station, ceased operations in 2007 and was delisted from the Stock Exchange of Thailand in 2014.
If the court agrees to accept the case for trial, it can issue an injunction stopping Pita from performing his duties as an MP until it rules on the case.
Time to make a sacrifice
Separately, some coalition leaders appear to be losing patience with Move Forward, calling it to make “sacrifices” so that a new government can be formed.
Pheu Thai’s deputy leader Phumtham Wechayachai said Wednesday’s vote should be Pita’s last try. He said Pita and his party may have to make a sacrifice so the country can move forward and steps for economic recovery can be taken. Thailand cannot afford to be without a government for too long, Phumtham added.
“Should we wait for the vote to be repeated again and again until next year, when senators’ authority to select a prime minister expires? We cannot wait that long. We need to put the interests of the people and the country first,” he said.
Sereepisuth Temeeyaves, leader of the Thai Liberal Party, made a similar comment, saying Move Forward may have to make a sacrifice and shift to the opposition side. This way, Pheu Thai would likely be able to form a new government successfully.
By Thai PBS World’s Political Desk
Source: Thai PBS World