The path now being pursued by the Pheu Thai Party will see it lose heavily in terms of political capital as it will be reneging on clear commitments made during the General Election not to do business with parties linked with the 2014 military coup and the existing government of General Prayut Chan ocha. It is also reversing its commitment to upholding the ‘democratic will’ as expressed in the May 14th General Election which was for a Move Forward Party-led government of democratic reform.
The Move Forward Party is on the verge of being given a sideways shift by its coalition partner, Pheu Thai, as the country grapples with a political crisis caused by opposition to the Move Forward Party from the unelected Senate and heightened tensions over the radical party’s insistence on pursuing its controversial policy to amend Article 112 of the Criminal Code on lèse-majesté. It is being predicted that a new government led by Pheu Thai with Srettha Thavisin as Prime Minister may be installed on Thursday next July 27th although it will come at a hefty political price as it will see Pheu Thai abandoning key pre-election commitments and the democratic principle spoken about at length in the weeks after the May 14th General Election.
The Pheu Thai Party, on Thursday morning, after Wednesday’s traumatic events which saw prime ministerial frontrunner Mr Pita Limjaroenrat suspended from Parliament, is now openly suggesting that a new coalition partnership will be formed in the coming week without the Move Forward Party.
It follows a decision by the Parliament President Mr Wan Muhamad Noor Matha on Wednesday to postpone another vote to elect Thailand’s 30th Prime Minister to July 27th next giving one week for the second-placed party in the May 14th General Election to manoeuvre itself into forming an alternative coalition government with parties who were part of the outgoing government.
Parties in power since 2019 may find themselves again in government with Bhumjaithai seeking the Health and Palang Pracharat the Interior Ministry
The Bhumjaithai and Palang Pracharat parties are expected to be brought into the new Pheu Thai-led coalition aimed at breaking the political deadlock. The two parties have been in power since 2019.
Already, it has been suggested that the Bhumjaithai Party wants to retain the Ministry of Public Health while the Palang Pracharat Party wants to control the Ministry of the Interior.
The proposed alternative coalition including the Bhumjaithai Party, Palang Pracharat Party and Chart Thai Pattana Party together with Pheu Thai would give the proposed new government 282 seats in the House of Representatives.
In addition to this, the acknowledged influence of Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan, the leader of the Palang Pracharat Party, with members of the Senate is understood to guarantee an easy passage for any nominee agreed by the new coalition on Thursday the 27th of July.
Pheu Thai leader Dr Cholnan Srikaew explains politely to reporters how the sands have shifted in Thai politics in recent days as it tilts towards power
On Thursday, it was left to Pheu Thai Party leader Dr Cholnan Srikaew to address reporters on the shifting sands of Thai politics.
He said this: ‘Pheu Thai still joins hands with other coalition allies. Whether the Memorandum of Understanding will be revised I can’t give details yet because the eight coalition allies must discuss the matter first. We will discuss whether more parties will be brought in.’
The strategy appears to be to open up discussions with parties from the outgoing government while leaving it up to the Move Forward Party to resign from the coalition.
Some members of the existing coalition have already expressed concern about the Move Forward Party’s obdurate position on amending Article 112 of the Criminal Code on lèse-majesté.
Outgoing government parties will not associate with the Move Forward Party meaning that the party which won the General Election is excluded from power
However, the parties being targeted from the existing government have ruled out any involvement or association with the Move Forward Party because of its Article 112 position as a precondition to supporting a Pheu Thai Party government.
This was put succinctly to reporters on Wednesday by Deputy Prime Minister Anutin Charnvirakul, who said: ‘If Pheu Thai Party becomes the leader in forming a government but the coalition still includes the Move Forward Party which plans to amend Article 112. I won’t join it. I don’t want a minority government either.’
Sources within Pheu Thai were even briefing before Wednesday’s developments that the party was reaching a turning point as the country faces a political deadlock.
A party source on Tuesday night said: ‘The Move Forward Party will not be forced out by a new coalition but we will let it think for itself whether it should be part of the coalition as this will only lead to an impasse.’
Pheu Thai’s shift away from Move Forward emerged on Tuesday night even before the dramatic events on Wednesday spurred by Article 112 concerns
Reports circulating in Bangkok since Wednesday morning, even before parliamentary and court proceedings altered the landscape, from Pheu Thai sources suggested that the party which came second place in the May 14th election was preparing to desert its coalition partner, the Move Forward Party, as divisions in parliament grew stronger over Article 112 of the Criminal Code linked with lèse-majesté.
The reports which were believed to emanate from the Pheu Thai Party at the highest level suggested that the party was becoming more amenable to an alternative coalition which excluded the Move Forward Party.
This pointed to Pheu Thai entering into a coalition with parties from the previous government, notably the Bhumjaithai Party and the Palang Pracharat Party led by General Prawit Wongsuwan.
Mr Srettha Thavisin of the Pheu Thai Party is now expected to be nominated on Thursday, July 27th.
Pheu Thai’s Paetongtarn Shinawatra feels it has an obligation to break the political deadlock as the current instability damages Thailand’s economy
This appears to be the moment when the Pheu Thai Party seeks to form a new government with other parties outside the eight-party coalition and excluding the Move Forward Party as it tries to break the political deadlock.
‘This coalition is most likely to happen and it must be agreed upon and approved by the Senators before the next round of voting,’ the source indicated on Tuesday night. ‘This is a major issue. Pheu Thai may have to take some flack but we hope people will understand the situation.’
The move comes as other parties within the eight-party coalition, aside from Move Forward, have become increasingly alarmed at the radical party’s dogmatic stance in its insistence on reforming Article 112 of the Criminal Code relating to lèse-majesté.
On Tuesday, Ms Paetongtarn Shinawatra who indicated that she was ready to move aside and let Mr Srettha be nominated as the sole nominee for the Pheu Thai Party, stressed that what is important for Thailand at this moment is to form a new government, quite apart from other considerations.
‘The focus is on when we can form the new government. It is in the public interest because the nation must move forward,’ she said. ‘The focus is on what we have, what we can do to develop the nation, to build up the confidence of international investors.’
Sensitive situation for Pheu Thai as it pivots
Ms Paetongtarn was responding to reporters’ questions on the possible exclusion of the Move Forward Party from the process.
She said the situation was very sensitive.
She also indicated that she had not given any consideration to taking up a ministerial portfolio in any new government that may emerge in the coming days.
Her father, former Premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in the 2006 coup, also suggested, in recent days, that his controversial return to the kingdom may have to wait until the political situation was stabilised and until the country had chosen its 30th Prime Minister.
Mr Thaksin had earlier been reported to be ready to return to Thailand a week from now on July 26th.
The political moves being projected, if true, will leave key leaders of the Pheu Thai Party open to criticism for backtracking on pre-election commitments not to do business with parties of the existing government as well as the commitment touted by the party to upholding the will of the people in the aftermath of the May 14th General Election result.
Future of the Move Forward Party is under serious threat as the Constitutional Court reviews a complaint against it under Section 49 of the Charter
The danger, however, for the Move Forward Party may not have passed yet with significant apprehension about the possibility of it being disbanded by the Constitutional Court which has already accepted a case against it under Section 49 of the Constitution suggesting that its lèse-majesté policy is an attempt to overthrow the state and the monarchy.
The Move Forward Party otherwise would still be in a strong position within parliament when the Thai Senate’s power to vote on a prime ministerial nomination expires in May 2024.
This would mean that if the party is not disbanded by then, it could conceivably lead a renewed coalition with Pheu Thai to fulfil the result of the May 14th General Election according to the ‘democratic principle’.