One discounted option that may emerge as the political stakes grow and the danger of instability becomes apparent is the inclusion of the Bhumjaithai Party in the proposed coalition if the country finds itself at perilous political crossroads where compromises are unavoidable.
Veteran political activist and pro-democracy campaigner Jatuporn Prompan predicts that the Pheu Thai Party will ultimately face a fateful decision in the coming weeks between adhering to democratic principles or reaching a compromise with parties of the outgoing government if the Thai Senate continues to block a government with the Move Forward Party at its head. His disturbing assessment was made on Thai TV on Wednesday night just hours after House Speaker Wan Muhamad Noor Matha confirmed that a joint parliamentary session will go ahead on Thursday, July 13th to try to elect Thailand’s 30th Prime Minister.
The veteran political activist and former MP Jataporn Prampan believes that Thailand is heading for a political crisis in the aftermath of next Thursday’s vote for Prime Minister.
Newly elected House Speaker, Wan Muhamad Noor Matha, confirmed on Wednesday, that July 13th will be the day that the joint sitting of the House of Representatives and the Senate will be held.
Mr Wan said he had made the arrangements for the meeting with the Speaker of the Senate Mr Pornpetch Wichitcholchai.
Ominous predictions will either be sidelined or spring to life after next Thursday. The key will be how the Thai Senate votes on Mr Pita’s candidacy
The ominous prediction relating to the country’s political outlook came on ThaiRath TV, the TV station of one of Thailand’s popular mass-market newspapers.
On Thursday next, either a substantial number of Thai Senate members will support the will of the people in the General Election and vote for Mr Pita or it overwhelmingly abstains in the vote before it, the latter triggering Mr Jatuporn’s dire outlook.
The former would sweep away any threat of political instability in the short term while the latter will confirm it.
Mr Jatuporn appeared with other guests and respected political analysts to try to tease out exactly what may happen over the next few weeks as the consequences of the May 14th election play out under the influence and vectors formed by the 2017 constitution and its more controversial provisions.
These include Section 272 which gives the Thai Senate, an unelected house of 250 members appointed by the outgoing junta in 2019, a critical say over the country’s destiny at this moment.
Jatuporn said the 2017 Constitution was designed to screen popular political forces, the Senate’s makeup, when appointed in 2019, should be remembered
Other constitutional provisions also mean Mr Pita Limjaroenrat who in most countries would be considered the Prime Minister-elect, given the landslide win by the opposition coalition, is now subject to scrutiny and at least one investigation concerning his role as the executor of his father’s estate, in conjunction with which he held a tranche of shares in trust in the defunct television station iTV, which has been shuttered since 2007. Mr Pita has recently also renounced any legal claim to the shares which remain in probate.
On Wednesday night, Mr Jatuporn reminded his TV talk show viewers and colleagues, that the political influences behind the appointment of the Thai Senate in 2019 by the then-outgoing National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) or junta, must be borne in mind.
He suggested that its political loyalties make it highly unlikely that the senators en masse will ever overtly support the candidacy of Mr Pita for Prime Minister on July 13th.
Mr Jatuporn predicted that the majority of senators will abstain in the vote, which will have the same impact as voting against the candidacy.
Mr Pita, according to the exact terms of the constitutional provision, must obtain 376 votes from the combined National Assembly or over 50%.
Second vote on Mr Pita’s candidacy is likely but that will also fail leading to a conference among the eight-party coalition and a Pheu Thai nominee
Teasing out what may happen in the future, Mr Jatuporn suggested that a second vote may then be allowed in which Mr Pita will be proposed again by the eight-party coalition including the Move Forward and Pheu Thai parties.
This was confirmed on Wednesday when Mr Wan, the House Speaker, confirmed that Mr Pita’s candidacy could be considered again by another combined parliamentary session.
Mr Jatuporn was adamant, however, that despite the threat of street protests and political instability, the Senate will not waver and support Mr Pita’s candidacy, even on the second occasion.
He also said it can be seen that MPs associated with the outgoing parties, of which there are 188, are also unlikely to vote for Mr Pita.
On this basis, Mr Jatuporn predicted the second joint sitting of Parliament to elect a Prime Minister will result in Mr Pita’s candidacy being unsuccessful for a second time.
Jatuporn predicts Srettha Thavisin will be the second nominee presented to parliament by the democratic coalition but this candidacy may also fail
He then suggested a conference of the eight-party coalition will be called, at which it will be agreed that Pheu Thai be allowed to nominate a prime ministerial candidate.
Jatuporn served time in prison because of his association with violent street protests in the aftermath of the 2006 coup d’état and in particular the violent and deadly 2010 standoff between Redshirt protesters and the government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.
A former Chairman of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship, he has extensive knowledge of behind-the-scenes politics in Thailand and has, in the past, been associated with the Pheu Thai Party.
He predicts that Mr Srettha Thavisin, the property mogul who recently took the plunge into politics as a prime ministerial candidate for Pheu Thai, will then emerge as the agreed candidate to be proposed by it because of his likely appeal to members of the upper house due to his long-standing business experience and seniority.
However, on Wednesday night, Mr Jatupron boldly suggested that it was quite likely that this candidacy will also be defeated.
Jatuporn suspects that the Palang Pracharat Party and other outgoing government parties are waiting to be called in to solve the political deadlock
The reason for this, he suggested, is that the outgoing political parties still harbour political ambitions to be involved in the next administration.
Mr Jatuporn predicts that ultimately these forces wish to see the Move Forward Party sitting in opposition and are hoping to force Pheu Thai into coming to an agreement with them.
At that point, which could take several weeks or even months to unfold, the Pheu Thai party will face a stark choice between either consenting to become part of an unpopular coalition government which would have the votes of the Parliament and the support of the Senate but which will be despised by large swathes of the public or letting a severe political crisis play out in the kingdom.
A decision by the Pheu Thai Party to join such a coalition could well spell the beginnings of the demise of the party as a major force in Thai politics although the allure of four years in power may be a tempting proposition to some of its stalwarts.
It would be a huge setback for those pushing for unfettered democracy and reform in the kingdom in the short term.
Bhumjaithai Party breakthrough may emerge
A potential breakthrough may develop if the Bhumjaithai Party is invited to take part in the proposed new coalition.
Given the rising stakes of this potential political crisis, it may become a conceivable option and potentially the only way out for all concerned.
Mr Jatuporn, in recent weeks, has suggested that unless Mr Pita is duly elected as prime minister by parliament, the aim of the eight-party coalition should be to play for time until next May, when the Senate’s vote on the selection of a new prime minister will expire under the terms of the controversial constitutional provision itself.
Mr Jatuporn has put this forward as his preferred strategy for the coalition parties representing democratic values and ideals.
Debt crisis may be one of the top items on the new cabinet’s agenda as the central bank stands ready
However, the outgoing Deputy Prime Minister and legal expert, Mr Wissanu Krea-ngam, has suggested that such a strategy was unlikely to prevail as it would almost certainly lead to a legal challenge.
If such a course was pursued, then obviously the outgoing caretaker government would remain in power during what would promise to be a protracted period of intense political instability.
Country in the crosshairs of challenging economic conditions and potential financial storm of higher borrowing costs and surging private sector debt
The problem for Thailand is that this is coming at a time when its economy is fragile with a slump in exports and a rising household debt problem, which if not addressed has the potential to morph into a financial crisis.
Interest rates around the world and in the kingdom are projected to continue to rise with a hawkish US Federal Reserve insisting that its policy of raising interest rates will continue for the foreseeable future, a policy which is putting pressure on world financial systems including Thailand where the ballooning personal debt level is an emerging trigger that could unleash a systemic crisis.
Mr Jatuporn ended his predictions by suggesting that ultimately there will have to be a conference of all parties to find a solution to this political challenge because if a crisis develops, it will ultimately have been caused from within parliament although those taking to the streets will point the finger at the 2017 constitution which has already proved to be a lightning rod for violent street protests.
The question is how determined are both sides to this decades-long tussle for power and how robust the country’s economy, threatened by it, proves to be.