There are only three developments that can lead to a political crisis being avoided in early August with Mr Pita Limjaroenrat’s name being nominated in parliament for the position of Prime Minister. All of them, at present, seem unlikely to happen.
Thailand is facing increasing political uncertainty and anxiety as tension mounts as to the fate of the ‘Government of Hope’ coalition unveiled this week and a vote in parliament that will probably come in early August to elect a new prime minister. On Tuesday, following the weekly cabinet meeting, Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam, usually an informed source, gave a timetable for key milestones leading up to the appointment of a new cabinet in mid-August and the withdrawal of the current caretaker government. However, in an aside with reporters, he suggested that an option that has been proposed to the Move Forward Pheu Thai coalition of waiting it out until after May 11th 2024 when the Senate’s voting power is extinguished was not viable suggesting that legal action may have to be considered if such a course was pursued in conjunction with the Election Commission.
Following Tuesday’s cabinet meeting, Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam gave a briefing to reporters on the timeline that would lead to the formation of the next government.
He indicated that this should take place in early August while parliament should meet between the middle to end of July with the first item of business being the election of a new Speaker of the House of Representatives.
Legal advisor to the outgoing government says new cabinet should be formed by mid-August but cautions about plans to wait out the Senate’s voting power
The last day by which the Election Commission is expected to certify the election results is July 13th next or within 60 days of the May 14th vote as required by the law.
The government’s top legal advisor also said that he expects that the new cabinet would begin work in mid-August or the second week of the month with the caretaker government leaving office at that time.
Mr Wissanu also had something to say about reports that the new coalition parties, if they failed to gain enough support from the unelected Thai Senate, may opt to wait until after May 11th 2024 when the senate’s extraordinary power to vote on the election of the prime minister in parliament will expire under Section 272 of the 2017 Constitution.
Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu confirmed that this is the case but said that after May 11th 2024, the Senate’s normal role would continue to function in other respects.
Proposed strategy of waiting until after May 11th 2024 to elect a new government with the votes of only MPs required may not be viable says Wissanu
However, he appeared to be dubious about the use of such a strategy saying he did not think that political affairs or the country could survive with such a hiatus or extension of time while awaiting the formation of a new government.
He suggested that the Election Commission would have to be consulted on the matter and that legal action may be considered.
Markets have become roiled in recent days by the rising political uncertainty despite assuring comments from Prime Minister Prayut Chan ocha that his caretaker government stands ready for a smooth transition of power.
Many institutional investors have begun to offload Thai government bonds and it is clear that any political stalemate or crisis, before the key vote to elect the new prime minister in early August, could be disastrous for the kingdom given that a political consensus has developed as to the will of the people which has been adopted by a majority of the newly elected MPs in the House of Representatives.
Financial markets are being impacted by what is a growing unease at the potential for a stalemate caused by extraordinary 2017 constitutional provisions
There are also fears among the public and supporters of the coalition that the Election Commission may decide to act on several complaints already lodged concerning Mr Pita Limjaroenrat, the proposed new Prime Minister and both the Pheu Thai and Move Forward parties which are also the subject of various active complaints.
On Tuesday, a peaceful demonstration took place outside parliament in Bangkok with permission from authorities to protest at the possibility of unelected Thai senators effectively reviewing the will of the people in the May 14th election and a proposed coalition government which, based on provisional election returns, controls over 62% of seats in the new House of Representatives.
Peaceful protest staged outside parliament
The organisers of the protest at which just over 300 people turned up and later dispersed quietly, at the outset, stressed the need for a peaceful and dignified demonstration which was highlighted in a press statement.
It said that the protest event ‘will focus primarily on dialogue, not intended to pressure, violate the conduct of senators or push for a tense situation in any way.’
Indications are that even with the Article 112 issue sidetracked and the new coalition’s commitment to upholding the revered status of the Thai monarchy that there are already many senators committed to voting against any government headed by the Move Forward Party which is considered too radical by many conservatives in Thailand.
Over 190 senators were appointed by the outgoing junta, the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) in 2019 so this is hardly surprising.
Conservative-leaning Thai Senate unlikely to vote in large numbers for a Move Forward-led government coalition seen by many as a shock election result
It is being suggested that, right now, the new government only has the support of 20 senators which leaves the chance of it obtaining a combined vote of 376 MPs and senators as only a marginal possibility at this stage.
In recent days, there are strong reports that many senators may abstain when the vote is brought before the combined National Assembly sitting of both houses in early August to elect a new prime minister.
Section 272 of the 2017 Constitution specifically states that over one-half of the combined body of the Senate and the House of Representatives must approve the appointment of a new prime minister.
Political crisis can only be avoided in three ways with no clear signs that any of them will occur on or before early August to avoid a catastrophe
Such a deadlock, if it should arise, would see Thailand potentially facing a political stalemate or crisis which can only be avoided in three ways, by senators supporting the ‘Government of Hope’ coalition, by one or more non-coalition parties with over 50 MPs in the lower house voting also to support the will of the people in the election or the creation of new coalition which although allowed for under the constitution, is already being ruled out by both the Pheu Thai Party and the Move Forward parties as being a breach of faith with the public’s vote on May 14th.
In early August, one of these options must occur with the former two options of either sufficient Senate support or more of the parties and MPs in the House of Representatives supporting the will of the people in a show of goodwill and unity being the only ways to avoid the possibility of severe political unrest.
Such unrest will also likely occur if elements of the proposed new government are removed or struck from the political sphere through the actions of the Election Commission and the Constitutional Court under the current constitutional provisions and laws if any political party or politician is found to be in breach of the kingdom’s strict requirements.