Since it came into power in the summer of 2019, the second government of Prayut Chan ocha has been beset by economic difficulties and a massive 6.1% contraction of the economy in 2020 yet its grip on power within parliament remains secure. The minister who received the most votes on Saturday was Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Health, Anutin Charnvirakul, while Education Minister Nataphol Teepsuwan came out at the bottom of the class.
The Thai government was given a boost on Saturday as it comfortably won a censure motion in parliament with the Prime Minister and nine of his ministers winning their votes by a clear margin. The win will put a spring in the step of Prime Minister Prayut Chan ocha with analysts now predicting his somewhat unwieldy government will serve a full term while a cabinet reshuffle may also be in the offing later in the year.
The Thai government, on Saturday, comfortably survived a censure debate that ran over the previous three days from February 16th to the 19th.
It was a heated debate with allegations being lobbed by the opposition benches in relation to the current economic headwinds and the speed of a vaccine rollout.
The Move Forward Party, like it’s party forbearer, the now-dissolved Future Forward Party, at times appeared to rattle government ministers and had to be warned by Prime Minister Prayut Chan ocha not to play politics with the Covid-19 crisis.
PM walked out of parliament
At one point, over the last few days, the PM walked out of parliament in protest and at the opening of the debate played what he called ‘distorted’ news reports as he denied any links with illegal gambling rackets.
However, the second no-confidence motion debate since 2019 was never really in any doubt as the government brought its standard-bearers before parliament for grillings by the opposition benches in a democratic exercise that leaves it in a stronger position.
Vote shown live on TV in Thailand
The key outcomes of the debate, votes which took place on Saturday morning at the parliament building in the Dusit district of Bangkok, were televised live on TV starting at 10.30 am.
Punchada Sirivunnabood, a political analyst and associate professor at Mahidol University, expressed the view that the result showed the current government of Prayut Chan ocha appears to be remarkably stable and coherent despite the economic and social difficulties caused by the virus emergency.
Political expert predicts that the second government of Prayut Chan ocha will serve a full term in office
She predicted it would last its full term which is in stark contrast to the outlook when it was formed in July of 2019 after the General Election in March that year despite its unwieldy structure with up to 19 parties and 35 ministers when it was formed.
The second democratically elected government of General Prayut Chan ocha has experienced economic turmoil since it came to power with a flatlining of growth in 2019 and a massive 6.1% contraction of the Thai economy in 2020.
It faces continued student-led protests, organised by the Ratsadon group, which have a rising profile internationally as democracy activists call for the release of key protest leaders jailed on February 9th on sedition and lèse-majesté charges.
Motions against the PM and nine of his ministers all handily defeated in parliament by the coalition
The no-confidence motion, which was voted on this Saturday, consisted of one motion against the Prime Minister which was won by 272 votes to 206 with three abstentions as well as motions against nine other key ministers.
487 MPs out of 500 in the lower House of Representatives were eligible to vote.
All eyes were focused on the tallies for and against each individual minister which gave an idea of their standing within both the government ruling parties and the opposition benches.
Most successful political player on Saturday was Minister of Public Health Anutin Charnvirakul
On this basis, the most successful political player on Saturday was Deputy Prime Minister Anutin Charnvirakul, the Minister of Public Health, who garnered 275 votes with 201 against and 6 abstentions.
On Friday, the Palang Pracharat Party leader, Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan, issued firm orders that all his party MPs should support government ministers equally but this was not enough to stop some MPs using the occasion to vent displeasure with government bigwigs.
Controversial Deputy Minister for Agriculture Thamanat Prompow looked good in the latest vote
Significantly, Prawit Wongsuwan himself garnered 274 votes with 204 against with 4 abstentions while Deputy Agriculture Minister, the controversial figure in the crosshairs from last year’s debate, Thamanat Prompow, came out near the top on Saturday with 274 votes for and only 199 members voting against him with 6 abstentions. Clearly, a man who gained ground during the year.
Education Minister under pressure politically
The biggest political casualty on Saturday, even as he won his vote, was Education Minister, Nataphol Teepsuwan who only had 258 votes on his side and 215 against and 8 abstentions.
Mr Nataphol was identified as a weak link in this week’s vote with a revolt brewing in the Palang Pracharat Party against him as the political grapevine suggests his wife, formerly active in politics, is considering a bid for the race to become the next governor of Bangkok, a move not welcome in some circles within the ruling party.
Associate Professor Punchada is predicting Mr Nataphol may also be under pressure as she forecasts a second cabinet reshuffle sometime later this year.
The votes on Saturday were:
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha – 272-206 with 3 abstentions
Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul – 275-201 with 6 abstentions
Deputy Agriculture Minister Thammanat Prompow – 274-199 with 5 abstentions
Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan – 274-204 with 4 abstentions
Interior Minister Anupong Paochinda – 272-205 with 3 abstentions
Deputy Interior Minister Nipon Bunyamanee – 272-206 with 4 abstentions
Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob – 268-201 with 12 abstentions
Commerce Minister Jurin Laksanavisit – 268-207 with 7 abstentions
Labour Minister Suchart Chomklin – 263-212 with 1 abstention
Education Minister Nataphol Teepsuwan – 258-215 with 8 abstentions