MANY PALANG PRACHARATH MPs are quietly looking to desert for other parties following last month’s surprise exodus of MP Thammanat Prompow and 20 fellow lawmakers. Those politicians would undoubtedly cringe at the probability of being defeated in the next general election if they continued to stay with the disintegrated party and were yet obliged to promote Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha again as head of a post-election government in their future electoral campaigns.
Among a loosely-connected force of 94 MPs currently attached to Palang Pracharath Party, the biggest coalition partner in government, many are discreetly planning to leave for other camps one way or another where they may register themselves as members for no less than 90 days as provided by law before the next race to parliament comes up, according to partisan sources.
Those Palang Pracharath MPs are inclined to believe they could no longer afford to name Prayut as top candidate for head of a post-election government at the possible expense of their being outvoted in the next general election. Many would already jump to the conclusion that the premier’s allegedly error-ridden performances, sustained incompetency and fast-dwindling confidence of the people in his running the country could probably deal a heavy blow in their future race to parliament.
Those lawmakers are looking so concerned over the probability of being defeated by rival contenders, not only those who will run under the tickets of opposition parties but those contesting under the banners of fellow coalition partners, if they had to repeatedly pit Prayut for premier as had been the case in which he was successfully named premier by Palang Pracharath Party following the 2019 election.
“Given the latest failure on the part of the prime minister to keep the prices of pork as well as other foods and consumer goods from soaring at the woes of the people nationwide, his popularity has already begun to decline, thus resulting in the defeats of Palang Pracharath Party in three by-election contests in a row,” remarked a Palang Pracharath MP who was among those contemplating a departure. That referred to last month’s mini-races to parliament in separate constituencies of Bangkok, Chumphorn and Songkhla.
Whereas Palang Pracharath Party headed by Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan is gradually disintegrating, those MPs are more or less inclined to follow suit of the ex-Palang Pracharath secretary-general and his protege MPs who had managed to get themselves formally expelled from the biggest coalition party in order to join a brand-new one, namely Thai Economic Party, where Wit Thephasadin na Ayudhya, a close associate of Prawit’s, has reportedly planned to steer.
Given the lame excuses that Thammanat and his clique had obviously developed critical internal conflict with certain Palang Pracharath members of cabinet and other partisan colleagues who had apparently adopted some kind of pro-Prayut sentiment to justify their ouster with a minimum of three-fourths of the total of the party’s MPs and members of its executive board, those who may have planned to follow suit are undoubtedly being tempted to take their turns.
It might unnecessarily take a longer time for the “rebellious” MPs to develop internal partisan conflict to the extent which may prompt a similar expulsion than to cast votes in contrary to partisan resolutions on important legislative affairs such as censure debate against the Prayut cabinet without a subsequent vote of confidence later this month which will be followed in May by another censure debate and no-confidence motion after a two-month parliamentary recess, the partisan sources point out.
Last September’s hush-hush plot allegedly orchestrated by Thammanat and finally aborted by Prayut in which certain coalition MPs had been told to abstain from casting a vote in favour of the premier following a four-day censure debate might probably be repeated during the post-censure vote of confidence by those who have contemplated departure from Palang Pracharath Party though Prawit will almost certainly instruct all his MPs to cast their vote in sustained support of the premier.
In the meantime, since last month’s ouster of Thammanat and 20 fellow MPs from Palang Pracharath Party, the House of Representatives could hardly make a quorum and whether legislations, specifically including a 2023 budget bill and those involving the government’s financial projects, could finally sail through with a simple majority vote will be up to anyone’s guess.
There are currently 474 MPs on both sides of the parliament chamber’s aisle among whom a quorum of 237 MPs accounting for half the total MPs is needed to warrant a House meeting. More often than not, House speakers have been forced to adjourn House meetings due to a consistent lack of a quorum whereas the Pheu Thai-led opposition bloc contended that it is basically the duty of all coalition MPs to make it.
Though Prawit categorically dismissed speculation that a political crisis pertaining to the planned censure debate is looming at parliament and assured that the Thammanat faction will finally continue to support the Palang Pracharath-led coalition government whose political stability will not be subverted by the ex-Palang Pracharath secretary-general’s clique or others who might follow suit of his exodus, only few seem confident that such assurances of the deputy premier will be practically met.
That the ex-Palang Pracharat secretary-general posted on his Facebook page a sensational, unexplained catchphrase saying “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” in the wake of Pheu Thai Party’s victory in the Bangkok by-election underlined the tacit environment in which Thammanat and Prayut are by no means coming to terms with each other about anything such as possible offers of a few cabinet seats to the former in exchange for continued support for the latter.
Importantly, Prayut is being faced with the planned censure debate either with or without a subsequent vote of confidence during which he will be relentlessly taken to task at a few months interval. Such phenomena might possibly finally press him to dissolve the House and call a general election though he recently suggested that organic laws of the constitution pertaining to the election for MPs and political parties be amended in the first place in accordance with the charter’s earlier-amended clauses.
Remarkably, Prayut might no longer be successfully endorsed as head of a post-election government even though he might possibly be given the greenlight from the Constitutional Court to remain as premier beyond the upcoming August, the partisan sources say.
Given a maximum of eight consecutive years for a prime minister to be constitutionally allowed to run the country, it remains to be seen how the Constitutional Court will retroactively count Prayut’s years in power since he managed to name himself head of a post-coup, military-installed government in 2014.
In another development, some pro-Prayut MPs might probably launch a fresh move to press Prawit to call it quits and be replaced by Prayut as leader of the disintegrated Palang Pracharath Party sooner or later. Such a novel plot is primarily designed to have Prayut manage to consolidate the rank and file of the party, keep the MPs from leaving for any other camp and undoubtedly promote himself as head of a post-election government again.
The pro-Prayut MPs have not only considered Prawit as a blase kingmaker who had allegedly failed to keep Thammanat under control but an incompetent demagogue who had poorly helped with his party’s unfruitful electoral campaigns in the Bangkok and southern by-election contests.
Nevertheless, another scheme to rescue the besieged Prayut has been quietly designed as an alternative to the Prawit-bashing plot, according to the partisan sources. That is for the premier to concurrently become leader of a brand-new party, which might probably refer to a yet-little-known Ruam Thai Sang Chart Party.
“Prayut would have to choose between himself taking the helm of Palang Pracharath Party in place of Prawit or becoming leader of another party if he decided to continue to run the country following the next election,” one partisan source put it.
Ruam Thai Sang Chart Party and any other camp where Prayut might practically steer will certainly be poised to recruit as many MPs as possible from Palang Pracharath Party in addition to those from other camps in preparations for the next nationwide election intertwined with a thinly-veiled desire to prolong his rule.
Top: Deputy Prime Minister/ Palang Pracharat Party leader Prawit Wongsuwan flanked by Thammanat Prompow, left, and Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, right, with the party’s logo in the background. Photo: Matichon Weekly
Home Page: Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha. File photo: Reuters/Athit Perawongmetha published by Channel NewsAsia