Observers believe that the pact reportedly brokered between the Move Forward and Pheu Thai parties on Thursday evening last may hold the key to avoiding a political stalemate with Move Forward agreeing to support a potential Pheu Thai Party nominee for Prime Minister if Mr Pita cannot command the required number of votes of MPs and Senators.
A breakthrough deal hatched between the Move Forward and Pheu Thai parties should see a Move Forward party nominee elected as the Speaker of the House of Representatives on Tuesday, July 4th, the day after parliament is opened by the King. The deal also provides for a Pheu Thai nominee for Prime Minister in the event of Mr Pita Limjaroenrat failing to secure half the votes of the joint session of parliament to be held on Thursday, July 13th next. This should help ensure the best possible chance that a Prime Minister will be elected by the eight-party coalition during the month. The pact could see Pheu Thai’s Srettha Thavisin emerging as the new government leader if Mr Pita does not secure the position first with the deciding factor being the votes of the Thai Senate and the stance taken by the Democrat Party and possibly the Bhumjaithai Party.
A breakthrough deal was hatched on Thursday night between the Move Forward and Pheu Thai parties, the main participants in the eight-party coalition that hopes to make up the next government.
They agreed on a formula to allow for the election of a Move Forward party candidate to the position of House Speaker on Tuesday, July 4th in return for Move Forward’s support for a Pheu Thai prime ministerial nominee if a stalemate situation arises in parliament after the July 13th vote for prime minister.
On Monday, July 3rd, His Majesty King Vajiralongkorn will open Parliament, which will be attended by 499 of the 500 elected MPs, following the resignation of one Move Forward Party MP, who voluntarily relinquished her position after being charged by the Royal Thai Police with drunk driving after her election to the role.
Newly elected Move Forward Party MP resigned
The Move Forward party-list MP Natheepat Kulsetthasit was subsequently convicted before the Nonthaburi Provincial Court and handed down a 2-month prison sentence in addition to a fine of ฿4,000 and also order to undertake community service.
Ms Natheepat was given a six months driving ban but her prison sentence was suspended for two years. She was placed on probation over the coming 12 months.
On Thursday night, sources within the Pheu Thai Party, speaking to the Bangkok Post newspaper, detailed a breakthrough arrangement whereby in return for the Pheu Thai Party backing down in a tussle between the parties over the House of Representatives Speaker post allowing a Move Forwards candidate to be elected on Tuesday, Move Forward has agreed to support a Pheu Thai nominee for prime minister if Mr Pita Limjaroenrat fails to attain a majority vote in the combined sitting of parliament, including the House of Representatives and Thai Senate, on July 13th next.
Breakthrough deal reported as agreed on Thursday by sources within the Pheu Thai Party could see Srettha Thavisin emerge as the next Prime Minister
The Move Forward Party has agreed to pursue such a move and play its part in the emerging government being formed by an eight-party coalition in the House of Representatives which has the support of at least 310 MPs.
Taking part in Thursday night’s talks were Pheu Thai prime ministerial nominees Paetongtarn Shinawatra, the daughter of ex-Premier Thaksin Shinawatra and Mr Srettha, the former property mogul who resigned his business interests months before the general election on May 14th.
It is not clear yet which of the two nominees will be proposed as Prime Minister if the situation arises after July 13th next, but some sources indicate that Mr Srettha may be a more acceptable nominee to the 250 Thai senators of the Upper House, because of his seniority and long track record in business.
Some senators have, in the past, criticised Ms Paetongtarn’s candidacy based on her youth and inexperience.
Mr Srettha is seen to have the edge over Ms Paetongtarn if a Pheu Thai party candidate is put forward backed by the eight-party coalition
Miss Paetongtarn’s association with her father may also be a consideration, as the former prime minister is still seen in Thailand as a divisive figure, particularly among conservative factions and the establishment.
Both sides to Thursday night’s negotiations were upbeat about the prospects of the agreement and emphasised the importance of the Move Forward and Pheu Thai parties maintaining their association in the interests of democracy.
The alternative would be for the Move Forward Party to go into opposition, allowing the Pheu Thai Party to form a coalition arrangement with parties associated with the outgoing coalition, a move which would anger many voters on the left and centre of Thai politics, particularly those who support the Move Forward Party and even many among Pheu Thai’s own base.
Pheu Thai wary of deserting Move Forward
In the weeks after the May 14th General Election, strategists with the Pheu Thai Party have consistently warned its leadership that such a course would be disastrous for the party, despite the anger felt by some of its more enthusiastic activists at the intransigence shown by Move Forward party over the position of House Speaker.
‘The two parties have never made it clear whether the runner-up party should be allowed to take the lead in forming the government if the first-placed party fails in its bid until they reached this agreement,’ said an enthusiastic Pheu Thai source on Thursday evening heralding the deal as a breakthrough. ‘Previously, many Pheu Thai MPs had opposed the Move Forward Party taking both the House Speakership and Prime Ministerial position.’
After the Thursday night meeting, Mr Pita spoke to reporters as he made his way to a conference with the Tourism Council of Thailand.
Pita expressed confidence that Pheu Thai will stay on course with the coalition after last week’s talks
He said he was confident that the Pheu Thai Party would keep its word and stay the course through the formation of a new government and afterwards as the parties take on responsibility for running the country.
He told reporters that he was unaware of many news reports as he had been working tirelessly to bring about a resolution to the standoff between the key parties to the incoming coalition.
It is understood a key player in Thursday night’s negotiation is the Move Forward Party’s Deputy Leader, Ms Sirikanya Tansakul, who is being tipped as the future Minister of Finance in the next government, with the Pheu Thai Party and Move Forward Party planning to take 15 seats each at the cabinet table, including that of the prime minister.
The vote, on Tuesday, for the House Speaker, will see a Move Forward Party candidate, being elected to the position. Two deputy speakers will be elected from among the Pheu Thai Party ranks under the proposed pact.
This will clear the way for a decisive meeting of Parliament on Thursday the 13th of July, where Mr Pita will be nominated for the post of prime minister.
He needs 376 votes to attain the post.
Barring a breakthrough move, Pita may not have the votes across the joint session to be elected as PM
There has been some speculation that he may receive the support of the Democrat Party and a small number of senators.
A breakthrough for Mr Pita would be the support of the Bhumjaithai Party but that party has resolved not to support any candidate for prime minister who favours amending Article 112.
It is believed, at this stage, he does not yet have the number of votes required to be elected.
Under Sections 159 and 272 of the 2017 Constitution, Mr Pita will have to attain half the total number of existing members of the combined House of Representatives and Senate to be elected as Thailand’s 30th Prime Minister.
After this, the next most likely prospect according to Thursday night’s brokered deal will be Mr Srettha Thavisin.
It is worth noting that in May next year, Section 272 will not apply and Section 159 of the charter allows for the election of a prime minister by a simple majority vote in the House of Representatives with the endorsement of a minimum of 10% of House members for the successful candidate.