The right noises are being heard with growing support, even among senators, for respecting the democratic mandate with the Move Forward Party being urged, however, to tame its reform instincts and possibly even sideline plans to amend the Article 112 lèse-majesté provision for now while making it clear that it fully supports the Monarchy. The issue is one of the key impediments right now to its path to power in August after parliament meets in July but there may be others including an Election Commission complaint against the party leader Mr Pita Limjaroenrat and the Pheu Thai Party also which need to be cleared out of the way.
Talks went well between the Move Forward Party, its leader Pita Limjaroenrat and five other parties on Wednesday in Bangkok with a press conference scheduled for Thursday to outline the new government’s plans and what Mr Pita terms a roadmap to put together its programme. The move comes as the country’s business leaders and key political analysts are urging the new coalition partners to move fast to fill the dangerous political vacuum that may otherwise develop.
At the same time, the third-placed Bhumjaithai Party fired its opening salvo when party leader Anutin Charnvirakul announced that it would not support any party or prime ministerial candidate who advocated either abolishing or amending the controversial Article 112 lèse-majesté provision.
The quest by 42-year-old Mr Pita Limjaroenrat, the Harvard-educated leader of the Move Forward Party, to become Thailand’s youngest Prime Minister in over 70 years and in modern times, continues after Sunday’s decisive and surprising General Election victory.
Many snares and political foes await in the high grass to thwart the ascent of Move Forward and Mr Pita Limjaroenrat to the Prime Minister’s chair
Although faced with many hurdles and potential snares with many foes on the conservative side of Thai politics in the long grass waiting to trip him up, there have been supportive noises coming from other parties and even from among the junta-appointed Senate which saw the first signs of opposition also emerge on Monday to his elevation to the role as successor to the outgoing Prime Minister General Prayut Chan ocha.
There was a growing consensus, on Wednesday, that the Move Forward Party should be successful in forming the proposed eight-party coalition government with the Pheu Thai Party and six other smaller parties including the Thai Sang Thai Party of Ms Khunying Sudarat Keyuraphan but this may come at a price.
The new coalition group already commands 313 seats.
While many provisionally elected MPs from the Democrat Party, including Deputy Minister of Public Health Satit Pitutacha, came out to voice qualified support for the Move Forward Party’s quest to form a government and to indicate that the party should support the clear will of the people, there were also calls for the Move Forward Party to sideline, for now, its policy proposal to reform Article 112 of the Criminal Code relating to lèse-majesté.
Ex Election Commissioner warns of threat to the political stability of the country if the Section 272 Senate provision is used to foil the people’s will
This was typified by a statement from Mr Somchai Srisutthiyakorn, a former member of the Election Commission and candidate for the Seri Ruam Thai Party in the election who warned that any attempt by pro-establishment parties to force a requirement that the Move Forward Party must achieve 376 votes to overcome the vote of the Thai Senate could spell trouble or political instability for Thailand.
Mr Somchai, in return, called for the Move Forward Party to downgrade some of its more aggressive policies and aims in favour of a slower move towards a more democratic and equal Thailand by saying that success ultimately for the party and the public mattered more.
There are also a growing number of senators themselves who have come forward and said that they do not agree with blocking the will of the people but, nevertheless, insist that the upper house must play a decisive role in vetting the party that won the General Election and its choice of government leader for the kingdom.
Senators come out in support of the democratic will of the people as Palang Pracharat stalwart files complaint about Mr Pita with Election Commission
Meanwhile, on Tuesday, Palang Pracharat Party member Mr Ruangkrai Leekitwattana filed his submission with the Election Commission calling for Mr Pita Limjaroenrat to be investigated under Section 24 and Section 122 of the 2017 Political Parties Act for holding 4,200 shares in a media firm called iTV during his initial tenure as a Bangkok MP from 2019.
Move Forward Party’s good election result leaves uncertainty as to who will form the next government
Court ruling on Thanathorn shares opens other MPs to scrutiny and possible electoral law legal action
A similar complaint in 2019 was upheld by the Commission and forwarded to the Constitutional Court which saw then Future Forward Party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit removed as an MP over shares he also held in a defunct media firm.
Mr Pita has repeatedly called on the public to ignore this complaint saying that he had fully explained the situation to the appropriate authorities in 2019 when he became an MP and was not in breach of his legal duties under the law.
Some senators support the new government but wish to have their say in vetting any PM candidate despite the controversial and limited nature of the law
One of the upper house members, Senator Wanlop Tangkananurak, on Tuesday, stated that he was ready to support the will of the House of Representatives which could mean supporting Mr Pita’s candidature as prime minister as reflecting the will of the lower house and consequently the people providing the candidate was a suitable person in other respects.
However, he expressed surprise that the Move Forward Party was now courting support from the Senate when it had earlier campaigned for its voice to be eliminated.
Under the controversial Section 272 provision of the 2017 Constitution, the removal of this power or voice on the issue will automatically happen, in any event, after June 2024.
Other senators who have also expressed support for this course include Senator Peeraksak Porjit who said that the senators would insist, at the same time, on having their voice heard while also examining the suitability of any candidate while endeavouring to respect the will of the people.
‘Senators will also consider who they will nominate and whether the candidate is suitable,’ he said. ‘In principle, senators should respect the decision of the majority of MPs.’
Senator Jetn Sirathranont had a similar position.
Monday saw opposition to Mr Pita Limjaroenrat and the Move Forward Party from two senators who questioned the party’s position on the monarchy
‘The poll result shows that people would want to vote for candidates either from the Move Forward Party or Pheu Thai,’ he declared. ‘The political party that wins the most seats has the right to gather support and form a government first. If it fails, the party that wins the second-largest number of seats will be given a chance.’
On Monday, however, Senator Jadet Insawang and Senator Kittisak Ratanawaraha came out strongly against the Move Forward Party’s plan to form a government and the prospect of Mr Pita Limjaroenrat as prime minister.
‘If Mr Pita is nominated, I will reject it because I will observe the constitution and keep my oath,’ Senator Jadet stated. ‘The institution has nothing to do with you. You will change Section 112 and lessen the penalty. I am asking why?’
He was joined by Senator Kittisak who maintained that any future prime minister must be loyal to the nation, the country’s religious traditions and the monarchy.
Move Forward Party tries to mollify senators
Move Forward Party Secretary-general Chaithawat Tulathon who is working closely with Mr Pita in talks with the other five parties to build the potential coalition and a new programme for government since Monday, has reached out to the Senate and stated that his party was ready to meet senators and allay any concerns they may have about the more radical political party’s ascent to power.
‘The Senators’ concerns may be unfounded. If we can talk, they should be eased,’ Mr Chaithawat was reported as saying on Wednesday. ‘I am confident there are some senators who are mature enough and wouldn’t want to see a political impasse.’
The Move Forward Party has been solidly supported by the Pheu Thai Party and its two key prime ministerial nominees, Ms Paetongtarn Shinawatra and Mr Srettha Thavisin since the result became clear last Sunday night.
Pheu Thai’s Srettha Thavisin demands all political parties affirm the democratic principle and support the Move Forward Party in its bid for power
Mr Srettha has come out to call upon both the Democrat Party and Bhumjaithai Party to also show their commitment to democratic principles by voting for the party that clearly won the election and carried the wishes of the people at this time.
‘I, for one, support Mr Pita of the Move Forward Party to take the position with grace,’ Mr Srettha said.
Meanwhile, the incumbent Prime Minister Prayut Chan ocha remains tightlipped saying only on Tuesday that the government-making process must take its course.
He called for national unity while the exiled former prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra was frank in exchanges on the online application Club House on Tuesday.
He accepted that the Move Forward Party had beaten the Pheu Thai Party in the election by appealing to the younger generation, many of whom also convinced their parents, he noted.
He said the party had mastered the digital age and new communications technology to get its message across more successfully.
Thaksin admits that Move Forward outwitted and outplayed the Pheu Thai Party but described their win as a positive development for a changing Thailand
He praised and welcomed the party’s win as an exciting new development for Thailand.
He dismissed any talk of the Pheu Thai Party turning its back on the democratic principle and finalising a deal with the pro-junta parties or former coalition members such as the Bhumjaithai Party as propaganda spread to undermine Pheu Thai before the election.
He called on the Generals in the government to resign from politics saying it was better to walk away with dignity at this stage.
He said there was a growing feeling in Thai society, particularly among the younger generation, that the army should not be involved in politics.
He particularly noted the high vote for the Move Forward Party in many areas with high levels of military personnel and said this may reflect a changing of attitude in the army ranks itself.
He also indirectly appeared to call on the Move Forward Party not to interfere with the monarchy and expressed his full support for the highest institution.
Former PM pledged full support for the Monarchy
‘The stance of the Pheu Thai Party and the Shinawatra family is we respect and love the institution of the monarchy,’ the former prime minister said. ‘How others perceive it is not something I can control. I am who I am, and I am open to criticism but I’m not fighting to do anything bad to the monarchy. I’m only fighting for political wins,’ he told the audience.
Mr Thaksin also confirmed his determination to return home to Thailand before his birthday on July 26th next saying that he was not afraid of going to prison. He declared that, at present, he is already in a larger prison cut off from his family.
‘I’ve made my decision. I don’t care about anything else,’ he said. ‘I’ve been overseas for 17 years, it’s like being in a big prison.’