Potential shock as Deputy Prime Minister emerges as a contender with the potential support of senators. On Friday, Pheu Thai Party Prime Ministerial nominee Srettha Thavisin said he failed to see how General Prawit could secure the top job with the Palang Pracharat Party only having 40 MPs but Pheu Thai Party stalwart and leader, Dr Cholnan Srikaew, expressed concern at that very possibility in a charged atmosphere after Thursday’s stormy debate in the joint sitting of parliament.

Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan, the leader of the Palang Pracharat Party may emerge as a surprise new candidate for Prime Minister next Wednesday with sources within the eight-party coalition increasingly concerned after Thursday’s polarised debate in parliament, that the avuncular party leader may gain the support of the 188 MPs in the House and Senate who voted against Mr Pita and swing undecided senators to come in behind his bid which could lead to him securing well over the 375 votes required under Section 272 to be legally confirmed as government leader.

On Friday, speculation was growing that the Palang Pracharat Party leader, Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan (centre), may be nominated next Wednesday as tensions mount in a more polarised parliament. The Move Forward Party and its leader Pita Limjaroenrat (inset) remain entrenched in their determination to pursue a political agenda including reform of Article 112 on lèse-majesté.

On Friday, the day after the vote in Parliament which saw Mr Pita Limjaroenrat fail to reach the minimum votes required, 375 in a joint session of Parliament to be elected Thailand’s 30th Prime Minister, the eight-party coalition behind him met to discuss its future strategy.

A new session has already been scheduled by the Parliament’s President Mr Wan Muhamad Noor Matha for Wednesday, July 19th in the aftermath of events which unfolded on Thursday in which a sometimes fierce and open debate, heard a robust exchange of views that went on for six hours and which centred on the controversial Article 112 of the Criminal Code dealing with lèse-majesté.

Uneasy situation in Thai political circles on Friday as it suffered from a hangover after a bruising parliamentary debate which has polarised legislators

The country’s political arena appeared to stand uneasy on Friday amid the increased uncertainty that developed after the vote the day before and petitions being accepted against Mr Pita Limjaroenrat and the Move Forward Party by the Constitutional Court on Wednesday, just 24 hours before the vote itself.

This was particularly so among key leaders of the Pheu Thai Party, the largest political party in Thailand before the May 14th General Election and which has a reputation for adopting a more moderate stance and tone in its efforts to bring about a democratic future for the kingdom.

Speaking ahead of the conference of the eight-party coalition, the Pheu Thai leader Dr Cholnan Srikaew, told reporters that the second-placed party in the recent election would continue to support the candidacy of Mr Pita Limjaroenrat in the second round.

Double danger to Mr Pita and the Move Forward Party next week on Wednesday as the Constitutional Court reviews the two petitions taken up this week

There is, of course, now the imminent danger of the Constitutional Court, at its weekly meeting on Wednesday, perhaps handing down some judgement or ruling which may add further to the political confusion and turmoil that bubbled to the surface on Wednesday and Thursday this week.

The top court may also dismiss the complaints that were taken up against both Mr Pita and the Move Forward Party.

However, many political experts and seasoned observers of Thai affairs consider this an unlikely outcome. 

The third option is that the court may take further time to consider the petitions before it, which would allow for continued uncertainty which is already undermining the democratic process. 

New politics and a more radical agenda pushed by the Move Forward Party before parliament on Thursday as they did not shy away from Article 112 reform

Speaking to reporters on Friday, Dr Cholnan expressed concern about the reported entry of Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan into the race for the Prime Ministerial job.

It was reported, on Friday, that General Prawit may be nominated by the Palang Pracharat Party, the current ruling element at the centre of the outgoing coalition, for Prime Minister. 

Dr Cholnan told reporters that because of the divisive nature of yesterday’s debate in parliament, where Article 112 came to the fore and was placed at the centre of often bruising exchanges, there may be a danger that attitudes have hardened both within the House of Representatives and the pro-government side as well as with members of the Senate, the vast majority who either abstained or were not present for Thursday’s vote.

‘Nothing is easy, especially with unusual politics like this. There is an issue for the eight coalition parties to discuss, how to prevent this from happening. I already know that if we have a vote for Prime Minister again on July 19th but without any new principles or confidence-inspiring changes, then there is a chance we will lose. We must come and discuss what to do.’

Concern at the possible nomination of Palang Pracharat Party’s General Prawit Wongsuwan next Wednesday with the aid of strong Senate support

Dr Cholnan admitted that he was concerned about the possible entry of General Prawit into the race and suggested that if the 149 MPs and 39 senators who voted against Mr Pita were to vote in favour of the current deputy prime minister who is currently also a party list MP and a party nominee for the Palang Pracharath Party, that enough votes could be obtained from the Upper House or Senate to carry him into the chair at Government House as the country’s 30th PM.

40 MPs and 155 Senators abstained while at least 43 were missing from parliament.

The Pheu Thai stalwart said over 375 votes were required to be appointed Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Prawit is known to hold particular sway within the Upper House or Senate where it is reported that before Thursday’s vote, there was considerable pressure on senators either to abstain or to not attend Parliament to prevent Mr Pita being elected.

After Thursday’s vote, the eight-party coalition is no longer in any doubt that there is a concerted and undercover campaign not only to derail the chances of Mr Pita being elected as Prime Minister but also to put forward a prime ministerial nominee from the pro-government side of the House while using the short-term power of the Senate which expires in May 2024 to elect a government from this source.

Move to amend the 2017 Constitution and remove the Section 272 voting power granted to the Senate which expires anyhow in May 2024 of its own accord

On Friday, Chaitawat Tulathon, the Secretary-general of the Move Forward Party, in the afternoon, moved to introduce a bill to amend the constitution and to remove the power of the Senate to vote for the post of prime minister.

Thailand is facing a deep political crisis as Pita loses key vote and top court takes up complaints
Plan is to rally parliament behind the people’s will to elect Pita Limjaroenrat as Prime Minister
Move Forward leader says Pita will be PM despite the rumour mill and some vociferous senators on the right

In addressing reporters and justifying the move, he paid particular attention to the fact that 159 senators in Thursday’s vote abstained while 43 failed to attend Parliament, including one who had resigned.

The bill to make such a move was presented to the new Speaker and Parliament President, Mr Wan Muhamad Noor Matha, who promised to verify that everything was in order and then to settle a time to debate it.

At the same time, Mr Wan Muhamad said his priority was to ensure that Parliament moves forward with electing the next Prime Minister, which may see a second vote being taken by members of both houses sometime on Wednesday afternoon.

Progressive leader Piyabutr Saengkanokkul says Move Forward should go into opposition, not compromise

On Friday, the Secretary General of the Progressive Movement and formerly Secretary General of the now disbanded Future Forward Party, Mr Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, who has long urged the Move Forward Party to pursue a more radical agenda, which seemed on display on Thursday as the party did not hold back from promoting its views concerning Article 112 on lèse-majesté, something that has surprised many political observers and perhaps raised tensions within the eight-party coalition.

This played into the hands of conservative forces who are determined to create a more engaged parliamentary atmosphere in which the Senate may be spurred into openly supporting a conservative alternative for Prime Minister. 

On Friday, Mr Piyabutr even suggested that the Move Forward Party, at this time, move into opposition and allow the Pheu Thai Party to make up its own mind rather than backing down on its radical agenda and the policy platform that was put squarely before the people leading to its historic victory on May 14th last.

Mr Piyabutr, a Thammasat University legal expert, pointed out that he does not believe the Senate will allow Mr Pita or indeed any candidate of the eight-party coalition to inaugurate a new government from among its ranks as Thailand’s next Prime Minister in any event.

Srettha surprised at Palang Pracharat move to nominate General Prawit and also voiced scepticism about the new plan to amend the current charter

On Friday, reporters questioned Mr Srettha Thavisin, the Pheu Thai Party prime ministerial nominee. He told them he was surprised at the defeat of Mr Pita’s nomination and his failure to attain 375 votes in Parliament on Thursday.

He also expressed surprise at the prospect of the Palang Pracharat Party leader General Prawit Wongsuwan, being nominated as prime minister since the Palang Pracharat Party only has the support of 40 MPs in Parliament.

Mr Srettha said that from how he saw it, the mathematics for this did not add up and the prospect of General Prawit becoming Prime Minister was remote.

However, he reiterated that the Pheu Thai Party would again support Mr Pita in the second vote next Wednesday.

Mr Srettha stressed that the eight-party coalition must engage in talks as to its strategy, but pointed out that he was not a key negotiator in such talks. 

Very worried about the current position

The former property mogul turned politician, who up to recently has been seen as a possible compromise candidate, was less than optimistic about the proposal on Friday from Move Forward to amend the Constitution.

He said the idea of ‘switching off’ the Senate as it has become known didn’t sound like a good prospect to him.

He noted it would be very difficult considering the votes required for such a move would be just as high as those required to elect Mr Pita as Prime Minister in the first place.

Mr Srettha said he was very worried about the current situation after Thursday’s vote and recent developments.

The former top businessman has long expressed concern about the impact of political instability on the country’s economic prospects and capital outflows from the financial markets in Bangkok.

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Further reading:

Thailand is facing a deep political crisis as Pita loses key vote and top court takes up complaints

Plan is to rally parliament behind the people’s will to elect Pita Limjaroenrat as Prime Minister

Move Forward leader says Pita will be PM despite the rumour mill and some vociferous senators on the right

Pheu Thai may face a terrible dilemma as outgoing government parties still aim for power in PM vote

Wan Noor elected unopposed as House Speaker, Move Forward Party nominee for deputy wins vote

King and Queen open parliament amid uncertainty as to Tuesday’s vote on the Speaker of the House

Breakthrough deal could see either Pita or Srettha take job as Thailand’s 30th PM on July 13th

PM’s soothing words for frayed nerves as he says he will continue his role up to the next cabinet

Baht falls to 7-month low as unease grows over chances of Pita Limjaroenrat being elected as PM

New PM in July a turning point for the Thai economy in 2023 which could still see 4% GDP growth recorded

Pita’s election as PM and political certainty would be a green light for new jobs and investment

79 new MPs face scrutiny as Election Commission says only 321 to be declared elected on June 21st

Way cleared for Pita’s election as PM but seeds sown for political conflict with criminal probe under poll law

Dangerous political flux in the aftermath of the General Election is growing and poses a threat

Pita shares cast a pall over historic May 14th Election, fears that the results may be nullified by a court

Compromise mooted between Pheu Thai and Move Forward on House Speaker job before key meeting

Kooky Palang Pracharat reports rejected on Tuesday by Prawit as Pheu Thai stands by Pita for PM

Move Forward’s ‘Government of Hope’ coalition delivers a programme promising a new charter

Jatuporn warns Pheu Thai may be turned as he predicts a political impasse. Should wait for 2024

Election vote for Move Forward may have been a cry for help from voters mired in short-term debt

Pita, Move Forward and eight other parties meet in Bangkok and come out smiling, ready to govern

Pita plots a new coalition government with Pheu Thai but open conflict has already raised its head in the Senate

Move Forward Party’s good election result leaves uncertainty as to who will form the government