Talks are reported to be ongoing between the Move Forward and Pheu Thai parties with members of the upper house or Senate but today’s vote showed an antipathy among outgoing government MPs to the Move Forward Party which saw 77 abstentions in the only vote of the day. This may well be a feature of next Thursday’s vote on the candidacy of Move Forward’s Pita Limjaroenrat for the top job of Prime Minister where every vote not cast is effectively a vote against as he requires at least 376 votes to be elected under the current constitutional provisions.
Veteran MP and former Prachachat Party leader Wan Muhamad Noor Matha became the new Speaker of the House of Representatives on July 4th when 497 MPs agreed to accept his nomination to the role when proposed by Move Forward Party leader Mr Pita Limjaroenrat after the House convened on Tuesday morning. A similar nomination for Second Deputy Speaker of the House also went unopposed but a vote was forced to elect the Move Forward Party MP for Phitsanulok as First Deputy Speaker and Vice President of the House. The meeting which took place in the morning and into the early afternoon showed that MPs associated with the outgoing government may be more likely to abstain or vote against Mr Pita Limjaroenrat when he is nominated by the eight-party coalition for the role of Prime Minister on Thursday next, the 13th of July, as talks are ongoing between the two leading parties and senators to secure his elevation to the job to avoid a political stalemate.
On Tuesday morning, the House of Representatives, on its first working day of the new Parliament, elected Mr Wan Muhamad Noor Matha, the veteran MP and leader of the Prachachat Party up until Monday, as its new Speaker.
The inaugural day of parliament, on Monday, was marked with some anxiety for those supporting the incoming eight-party coalition group after the Move Forward Party appeared to go back on an agreement arrived at on Thursday night.
Thursday night’s deal appeared to be discarded by Move Forward but today’s events show more support in parliament for a Pheu Thai nominee
Pheu Thai had agreed to support the lead party’s candidate, Phitsanulok MP, Mr Padipat Suntiphada for the role of House Speaker in return for a backup plan which may have seen Pheu Thai’s prime ministerial nominee being forwarded by the eight-party coalition in the event of Mr Pita Limjaroenrat’s nomination not being successful on Thursday, July 13th next when the vote is due to take place for Thailand’s next Prime Minister.
This now promises to be the day when the May 14th General Election will ultimately be tested with some suggestion, on Tuesday, that more senators may be brought around to supporting the popular choice for prime minister if there is some pledge by the Move Forward Party not to take any action of the lèse-majesté law, Article 112 of the Criminal Code which conservatives consider sacrosanct.
On Tuesday, Mr Wan Noor emerged as the only candidate before the House for the role. His name was first associated with the position in talks between the coalition parties at the end of May this year.
He was nominated by Move Forward’s Mr Pita and, therefore, under House rules, was declared elected to the powerful position.
Veteran MP, first elected to the House of Representatives 45 years ago, jumped at the chance when it came on Monday to take on the key role
On Monday, confirming that he was to be put forward for the job, Mr Wan Noor, who until Monday afternoon, was the leader of the Prachachat Party, said he did not hesitate in accepting the invitation from both the Move Forward and Pheu Thai parties when it was communicated to him.
‘When contacted about the role, I didn’t take long to make my mind up. Sincerely, I want the new government to move forward. When the two parties agreed to let me work for the country, I decided I wanted to do the job,’ he disclosed.
Mr Wan Noor reportedly resigned from his position as leader of the Prachachat Party on Monday and all other political roles so that his position as Speaker would be neutral as required under the constitution.
The 79-year-old veteran MP was also a former deputy prime minister in the course of his long career as he was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1979 for the southern Yala province.
He is also an experienced minister in various governments under former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra serving in the Interior, Transport and Agricultural ministries.
Mr Wan Noor was the Speaker of the House from 1996 to 2000 before his election, on Tuesday, to the role for the second time.
Move may cost the Prachachat Party a cabinet seat
‘As for the party, there must be people working. I don’t think I will be the leader of the party forever. It would be good to allow another person to become the next leader of the party to continue its work,’ he explained to reporters on Monday as his fate became clear.
He was not sure what the position of the Prachachat party would be in the coming discussions concerning cabinet portfolios, with some suggesting, because of his elevation to the important role, the Prachachat party may lose a seat in the new incoming cabinet.
Mr Wan Noor made a commitment, speaking to reporters, that his tenure in the job would be one marked by transparency.
He invited all parties in Thailand, particularly the media, to come and monitor the work of the House closely in the coming parliament.
After the House had decided on the new House Speaker, nominations were called for the position of Deputy House Speaker and first Vice-President of the House of Representatives.
Move Forward Party’s nominee for Deputy House Speaker forced to a vote by a United Thai Nation (Ruam Thai Sang Chart) contender securing 105 votes
Move Forward nominated Phitsanulok MP Mr Padipat Suntiphada for the role, while the United Thai Nation (Ruam Thai Sang Chart) Party associated with outgoing Prime Minister, Prayut Chan ocha, nominated Mr Witthaya Kaewparadai, a party list MP, for that party, for the position.
The election by secret ballot that followed showed Mr Padipat with 312 votes while Mr Witthaya secured 105 votes.
There were 77 abstentions and 2 invalid ballots bringing the total number of votes cast to 496.
This election may be an indication of things to come on Thursday next in the vote for Prime Minister.
It showed that the parties associated with the outgoing government were willing to vote against the Move Forward Party nominee, with a substantial number of MPs who are not part of the eight-party coalition choosing to abstain.
Mr Padipat was duly elected as the Deputy Speaker of the House.
Pheu Thai Party nominee, Chiang Rai MP Pichet Chuamuangphan, for Deputy House Speaker sails through also unopposed on Tuesday afternoon
There then followed the nomination of Chiang Rai MP Mr Pichet Chuamuangphan of the Pheu Thai Party for the position of Second Deputy Speaker and Vice President of the House.
He was proposed by the Secretary-general of the Prachachat Party Police Colonel Thawee Sodsong.
He was duly elected when no other nomination was put forward, again showing a willingness in the House of Representatives to compromise provided the nominee was not from the Move Forward Party.
This may also be significant considering next week’s important session of Parliament when it meets in a joint session to elect the next Prime Minister.
Statement of intent issued by Move Forward and Pheu Thai parties in relation to legislation for a proposed amnesty for political prisoners in the future
Before Mr Wan Noor’s successful elevation to the post of House Speaker, the leadership of the Move Forward and Pheu Thai parties on Monday expressed support for a plan to introduce legislation in Parliament at a later stage to grant an amnesty to those convicted of political acts, particularly related to free speech.
Independent observers have been quick to point out that this initiative is outside the scope of the Eight Party Memorandum of Understanding linked with the conduct of any future government.
It also appeared to come as a surprise to some Pheu Thai MPs such as Sutin Klangsaeng who spoke with reporters on Tuesday.
This does not impinge on Article 112 or the controversial lèse-majesté provisions of the Criminal Code.
Pheu Thai Party leader Dr Cholnan Srikaew confident about next week’s crucial vote for Prime Minister
The Pheu Thai Party leader, Dr Cholnan Srikaew, expressed satisfaction that in the election of Mr Wan-Noor, 497 MPs were able to unanimously endorse him for the position as no further candidate was nominated.
He said it was a good sign suggesting the possibility of further progress.
He indicated that talks are ongoing between the Move Forward and Pheu Thai parties with senators in the Upper House on the election of Thailand’s next prime minister.
Significantly, Mr Cholnan said that there was no plan B or backup plan if Mr Pita fails to secure the 376 votes required but Mr Cholnan expressed confidence that Mr Pita will, ultimately, be raised to the position.