IT REMAINS TO BE SEEN whether a fresh conspiracy to turn Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan into head of government in place of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha following an approaching censure debate/no-confidence vote will ever bear fruit.
Prawit who concurrently heads the ruling Palang Pracharath Party is being openly pitted by some coalition MPs as a “reserve” premier to replace the current one who could possibly be outvoted at parliament after a lengthy censure debate primarily based on his alleged incompetence and failure to run the country and salvage the people from economic woes, according to political observers personally associated with coalition MPs.
Many Palang Pracharath MPs, Thai Economic MPs and some others have shared the sentiment to the extent that Prayut should step down following the censure/no-confidence motion speculated between late June and early July, no matter how many votes may be cast in his support compared to those in his opposition, they say.
Even if any recurring plot to oust Prayut with the naysayers outvoting the yeasayers at the height of the the censure/no-confidence motion might fizzle out as had been case of last year for which former Palang Pracharath secretary-general/current Thai Economic secretary-general Thammanat Prompao was held responsible, the embattled premier might probably be suggested to step down for good, they say.
Prawit is being regarded as the “most suitable” person to replace Prayut whilst nobody else readily provided on the lists of parties as candidates for head of government following the 2019 election is deemed as suitable, according to Thai Economic Party leader Wit Thephasadin na Ayutthaya, who is personally close to the Palang Pracharath Party leader.
The Thai Economic leader apparently refers to Bhumjaithai party-listed candidate for premier Anutin Charnvirakul and Democrat party-listed candidate for premier Abhisit Vejjajiva with both parties currently being the second and third largest coalition partners respectively whereas Thammanat suggests Prawit be considered as an unlisted prime minister representing Palang Pracharath Party as the largest coalition partner. It was the military-installed party which successfully named Prayut as its sole candidate for premier after the previous general election.
Conspiracy-based efforts to promote Prawit as the “reserve” premier are not only made in tacit, quiet fashion among the coalition MPs but gone public and viral online with gigantic roadside billboards portraying the Palang Pracharath boss and his well-wishing messages to Songkran festival travellers. The unprecedented signs were primarily meant to make him more acquainted with the people and herald the probability of his rising to the top post of government in the foreseeable future.
Though Prawit may have publicly said time and again that it never dawned on him he should necessarily assume the top post of government and that he has been more contented with the much-admired role of a kingmaker than anything else, only few would doubt that it was a tongue in cheek.
Though Prawit earlier forecast that Prayut will likely dissolve the House of Representatives and call a general election after he has hosted APEC meetings in November, one would no longer trust the other until the four-year term of the current House finishes in March 2023.
Whilst Prawit may look humble, mumbling and wobbling his way through a crowd of inquisitive reporters at Government House and elsewhere, Prayut has lost his head after being asked to comment on the reported news of a “reserve” premier who might take his place at any given time. Understandably, the testy Prayut looked suddenly frustrated, tight-lipped and strutted away at the mentioning of Prawit by name as his possible replacement.
Given the censure/no-confidence motion against Prayut which will practically rely on the whims of 18 Thai Economic MPs headed by Thammanat and a dozen others attached to pro-government splinter parties, most of which only have one MP each, the hush-hush conspiracy toward a change of prime minister is being primarily carried out for the sake of sheer survival of the Palang Pracharath-led coalition as a whole.
The Thammanat clique of MPs and those of the splinter parties will undoubtedly have bargaining chips which could terminally dictate a survival or an end of the Prayut regime, given a meagre majority of MPs on the coalition side, according to the political observers.
Since the leaders of those “independent” coalition MPs may desperately look for a few cabinet seats which would be bluntly denied by the vindictive Prayut, especially as far as the rebellious Thammanat is concerned, they have been more or less encouraged to help with the conspiracy simply by abstaining from voting either for or against the embattled premier.
“As a matter of principle, Prayut’s rise and fall should not necessarily affect the Palang Pracharath-led coalition as a whole. He may go but we may stay on until the end of the four-year term of the House. We might probably have to steer the change of prime minister in order to keep the coalition intact from the motion,” a coalition MP was quoted as confiding to his colleagues.
It has been widely and well understood among the legislators on both sides of the parliament chamber’s aisle that it will be very unlikely for the coup leader-turned-prime minister to dissolve the House just before the much-heralded motion is formally lodged at parliament, thus fueling speculation that he will brave the long days of gruelling grilling and subsequent no-confidence vote again after having already survived such verbal marathon barrages over the last few years.
Nevertheless, many coalition MPs have been largely concerned over the possibility that the number of the votes of confidence might eventually amount less than half the total MPs, accounting for 237, though that of the votes of no-confidence would almost certainly come out less than half of the total MPs. In such a volatile scenario, the premier will be almost immediately obliged to step down.
Apart from that, Prayut who rose to power by way of the 2014 coup and named himself head of a military-installed government later that year might possibly be considered by the Constitutional Court to have completed a maximum of eight years in power by the upcoming August, thus being no longer constitutionally allowed to prolong his rule.
Many MPs who have contemplated the naming of Prawit as the “reserve” premier in preparations to replace Prayut following the censure debate and subsequent no-confidence vote against the premier and any other members of his cabinet admit that they themselves have not been very well prepared to contest the next general election anytime soon whereas the four-year term of the Palang Pracharath-led coalition barely has a nine months left to go from July.
Many, if not most, of the coalition parties’ leaders believe their chances of coming back as the same bunch of coalition partners are quite slim, compared to the likes of Pheu Thai Party and Move Forward Party, if the next race to parliament is held anytime within this year, according to the political observers.
“The nine-month period will mean a lot to the coalition partners who could stall for time and woo more popularity from among constituents though they remain undecided as to who should be named candidates for head of a post-election government other than Prayut,” the coalition MP put it.
Like it or not, Prayut has earlier made it public that he would prefer to run the country against all odds for another five years from now, no matter what party in general or whether Palang Pracharath Party in particular may name him as candidate for head of a post-election government again. Little would he look concerned over possibilities of any pro-Prayut camps being defeated in the next election and failing to become part of a future coalition government, let alone spearheading the formation of one in the first place.
Top: Prime Minister Chan-o-cha together with Deputy Prime Minister/Palang Pracharath Party leader Prawit Wongsuwan. Photo: Voice TV
First insert: Thai parliament meeting chamber. Photo: Naewna
Second insert: One of the gigantic billboards showing Palang Pracharath Party leader Prawit Wongsuwan wishing people a Happy Songkran. Photo: Matichon
Third insert: Prime Minister Prayut talking to the reporters recently. Photo: INN News
Home Page: Deputy Prime Minister Prawit talking to reporters. Photo: Sanook.com