IT WILL BE VERY UNLIKELY for Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to dissolve the House of Representatives and call a general election, let alone step down, to avoid a censure debate and no-confidence vote, speculated in an upcoming May or June, no matter what the consequences will be.
What was essentially understandable to those who may have superficially followed political developments and hearsay was the Pheu Thai Party-led opposition bloc’s desperate shot in the dark to the extent that Prayut might probably be so much pressed by internal conflict of Palang Pracharath Party, the largest coalition partner, intertwined with the government’s shaken political stability, that he would finally dissolve the House in order to circumvent the planned grilling and disapproval voting which would closely follow the reopening of parliamentary sessions in late May. Once a no-confidence motion against the head of government is formally lodged at parliament, he is not allowed by law to dissolve the House.
Prayut will not only be inclined to dissatisfy the opposition bloc and any of his critics who have been repeatedly urging him to dissolve the House or call it quits and get replaced by somebody else as premier but be strongly advised by coalition partners that they might no longer be able to get enough MPs to form a coalition of their own and name him head of a post-election government again if he decided to dissolve the House and call a general election in foreseeable future.
Given the alleged failures of the government to address economic woes of the people having difficulties making ends meet in the face of the soaring prices of oil, food and other consumer goods in addition to the sustained pandemic situation, the major coalition partners, namely Palang Pracharath Party, Bhumjaithai Party and Democrat Party, will likely get a far less number of MPs than they did in the 2019 election whereas the opposition bloc, particularly Pheu Thai Party and Move Forward Party, will likely get more MPs than those coalition partners due to the voters who may already had enough of the Prayut regime, partisan sources predicted.
“That being said, Prayut will have to keep stalling for time and stand being taken to task time and again for his allegedly poor handling of the economic problems and the people’s hand-to-mouth situation only if he was more or less determined to prolong his rule beyond this year,” a partisan source put it.
Nevertheless, the much-heralded scenario of a House dissolution has been almost immediately downplayed by pro-Prayut coalition partners who insisted that the former army chief who rose to power by way of the 2014 coup would manage to outlive the critics’ predictions of his tenure simply by giving up on the whims to dissolve the House and instead encountering the censure debate and subsequent no-confidence vote, no matter how many coalition MPs will finally offer to vote for him, either on conditional or unconditional grounds, compared to those against him.
Last month, Prayut was considerably encouraged by Deputy Prime Minister/Bhumjaithai Party leader Anutin Charnvirakul who cited a numerical advantage of 260 supportive MPs whom the Palang Pracharath Party-led coalition partners will still be able to keep in control one way or another.
Though former Palang Pracharath secretary-general Thammanat Prompao categorically dismissed the Bhumjaithai leader’s arbitrary calculation of the pro-Prayut MPs, saying none of the 18 Thai Economic MPs will be among the 260 lawmakers, Deputy Prime Minister/Palang Pracharath leader Prawit Wongsuwan reportedly boasted during the dinner party that he could still manage to have all those MPs except for Thammanat alone vote in support of the embattled premier.
That Prayut recently hosted a dinner party for the leaders and secretaries-general of the coalition parties which is being followed by another one for those of splinter parties was not one bit a usual, spontaneous event. Such get-together sessions surprisingly hosted by Prayut who may have earlier tried to literally keep his distance from politicians were designed as an inexpensive, casual way of maintaining the unity among the rank and file of those coalition partners at least for the time being and hopefully during the censure debate and no-confidence vote.
“Hosting dinners is certainly far better than handing out bananas which might ultimately be a must-give to get some opposition MPs to cast votes for the premier and help him survive the no-confidence motion,” remarked a partisan source. In modern political jargon, the word “bananas” metaphorically refers to a payoff in cash. Remarkably, several opposition MPs each of whom has been allegedly secretly receiving some 200,000 baht in monthly payoff will likely seek reelection under the tickets of a current coalition partner in the next race to parliament.
Chulalongkorn University’s political scientist Surachart Bamrungsuk called the hosting of dinners by the powers that be a “political solution” merely designed to clear up all apparent misgivings and frustrations among the rank and file of any coalition partners which might not only affect the stability of the multiple-party coalition government as a whole but that of the premier individually.
Handing out “bananas” could probably double the speculated win-win situation in favour of the coalition side. Opposition MPs would be ousted from their respective parties if they voted against the partisan resolutions by joining coalition MPs in voting for Prayut during the post-censure, no-confidence vote, thus prompting themselves to defect to a coalition party in 30 days’ time to retain their MP status, according to the partisan sources.
The novel shenanigan in which a sum of five million baht in cash was allegedly offered to each of the coalition MPs in exchange for their vote in support of Prayut during last September’s no-confidence motion might probably be repeated in May or June. Only the amount of the payoff might probably more or less differ.
Pheu Thai leader Chonlanan Srikaew remarked that the MPs under guidance of Thammanat plus those of the splinter camps could probably become a decisive factor as to whether Prayut will survive the upcoming no-confidence vote because they might choose to act independently rather than consider themselves as part of the coalition government.
If the number of nay votes against Prayut comes out to more than half the total of MPs, currently accounting for 474, the premier will have to choose between dissolving the House or resigning. The unelected premier would most likely dissolve the House if the naysayers outvoted the yeasayers. Yet, all major coalition leaders seemed to believe they would eventually manage to muster enough votes to keep him in power.
In the meantime, Prayut will very likely reshuffle his cabinet of ministers ahead of the censure/no-confidence motion, expected to be submitted by the opposition bloc upon the reopening of parliamentary sessions scheduled for May 22. Prayut has not as yet reshuffled his cabinet after he kicked out the “rebellious” Thammanat as deputy agriculture & cooperatives minister and Naruemon Pinyosinwat as deputy labour minister shortly following the previous censure/no-confidence motion.
“Big Bro” Prawit is largely tipped to be named interior minister in place of Anupong Paochinda who currently holds onto the post, known to be practically decisive and instrumental in the “preparations” for a nationwide election by government officials ranging from provincial governors to district chiefs, kamnan or subdistrict heads and puyaiban or village heads.
Prayut will not only ask Prawit for help with his survival over the no-confidence motion but for the naming of him as head of a post-election government again. Given the premier-making chore which “Big Bro” Prawit used to carry out with the help of 250 senators all of whom were handpicked by the Prayut-led coup junta, the political kingmaker will almost certainly be more than ready and willing to do it all again for “Little Bro” Prayut after the next election has been held, no matter how soon, according to the partisan sources.
Besides, one of the Thai Economic MPs ousted from Prawit’s party at the urging of Thammanat plus the leader of one of the splinter camps, most of which only have one MP, will likely grab a couple of cabinet seats on one condition – it could be given to anyone but Thammanat who has obviously remained at odds with Prayut.
The ministerial posts for the Thai Economic and splinter partners will likely be offered in exchange for the votes of all their MPs in support of Prayut who has made no secret of his ultimate desire to host APEC meetings in November despite his wobbling international image in relation to Thailand’s questionable democratic rule and human rights records with respect to the arrests of many street protesters on lese majeste and sedition charges.
Top: Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and the five ministers who survived the September 2021 censure motion.Photo: Siam Rath
Home Page: Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha took his face mask off at one point of the censure debate in September 2021. Photo: Siam Rath