THE LONG-COVETED DESIGN OF de facto Pheu Thai Party boss Thaksin Shinawatra to return home after years in self-exile overseas alongside his sister Yingluck Shinawatra, both having been previously deposed as prime ministers in separate coups, may entirely fall through without help from kingmaker Prawit Wongsuwan.
Thaksin and Yingluck who have been reportedly residing in Dubai following the 2006 and 2014 coups which had overthrown them as head of an elected government respectively could not come back home after a general election expected early next year only if Prawit, top leader of the ruling Palang Pracharath Party and a deputy prime minister, did nothing to help make their shared dream come true, according to political observers.
Thaksin has time and again lamented the event in which he was deprived of power in the 2006 coup orchestrated by the likes of the then-army chief Sonthi Boonyaratkalin, followed by the 2014 coup orchestrated by the then-army chief Prayut Chan-o-cha to depose the woman prime minister. More often than not Thaksin has publicly repeated his much-heralded prediction of the Pheu Thai, a resurrection of the dissolved Thai Rak Thai Party and People’s Power Party, scoring a landslide victory in the nationwide election which could probably pave way for his planned homecoming so that, he said, he could literally babysit seven grandchildren.
The de facto Pheu Thai boss was said to have painstakingly negotiated his long-coveted homecoming with some people closely associated with the Palang Pracharath boss, albeit in very discreet, hush-hush fashion and without direct contact between the two of them. Personal relationships between Prawit and Thaksin dated back when the former was promoted as army chief by the latter who was prime minister over two decades ago.
“The general election will see many voters choosing between opening the door for Thaksin to return home and giving Prayut two more years to enjoy himself on his power trip. But Thaksin’s homecoming bid could fall through without Prawit’s help to make it happen at all,” a politically-connected observer said.
For that reason, reluctantly admitted by some and instantly denied by others, the kingmaker who was said to have concluded that this time is his turn to make himself prime minister would undoubtedly see to it that he not only be named the No.1 contestant for prime minister under the Palang Pracharath banners but be given yea votes, albeit on conditional basis, from elected MPs in addition to a majority of the unelected senators who may have been readied to act at his command.
Prayut has apparently considered himself no politician despite the fact that he practically is the one desperately seeking to prolong his rule beyond the next general election, albeit in usually aloof and cocky manner toward others, whilst Prawit has invariably come off as a congenial, compromising figure who would almost certainly make more friends than foes, the political observers remarked.
Though the Pheu Thai might possibly score a landslide victory with a large number of electoral candidates vying in both constituency-based and party-listed modes, they might probably fail to set up a coalition of their own without the kingmaker taking his part to the extent that he himself probably take the helm once and for all.
The Pheu Thai and Palang Pracharath might probably join hands to form the post-election government with a few other parties to join in coalition partners, given decisive votes from a large number of elected MPs and the unelected senators most of whom would remain under control of the kingmaker, who had earlier managed to name the coup leader-turned-premier Prayut head of the Palang Pracharath-led coalition after the 2019 general election.
Pheu Thai MPs might probably help with Thaksin’s homecoming bid by voting Prawit for prime minister on condition that he finally manage to bring the Pheu Thai boss and his sister back home, simple as that.
The likes of the Bhumjaithai, steered by de facto party boss Newin Chidchob, would find it uncomfortable to leave the post-election premiership to Thaksin’s daughter Paetongtarn Shinawatra or real estate tycoon Settha Taweesin, known as closely associated with Yingluck, or any others merely for numerical advantage reasons even though the Pheu Thai might probably win a decisive number of MPs whilst kingmaker Prawit who is largely known as a man of generosity and compromise would rather be relatively congenial and acceptable as head of a coalition government.
The likes of Paetongtarn and Settha as partisan contenders for prime minister would not be considerably desirable to any MPs other than the Pheu Thai ones, let alone the senators, according to the political observers.
Burapa University political scientist Olarn Thinbangteo commented that any hush-hush negotiations may have been held to the extent that the powerful kingmaker manage to bring the former leader in self-exile back home in exchange for the former’s taking the helm of a coalition government and the latter’s party being a major part of it after the nationwide election.
Prawit might virtually see himself contesting the general election in a win-win situation coupled with his ultimate political ambitions as far as Thaksin’s homecoming desire and his purported control of most senators are concerned, according to the academic.
Though the Palang Pracharath might probably win less MP seats in the next general election than in the previous one primarily due to defections of MPs from Prawit’s camp to the Ruam Thai Sang Chart and Bhumjaithai, the kingmaker will firmly hold the senators’ card with which he would be readied to close the deal in his own interests.
In the meantime, Prayut who has literally kept his distance from MPs on either side of the House chamber’s aisle has been more or less inclined to opt out by running under the Ruam Thai Sang Chart tickets since the brand-new party has openly offered to endorse his thinly-veiled design to prolong his rule as allowed by court for about two years after the general election whilst the Palang Pracharath would name Prawit as No. 1 rather than Prayut who might possibly run as No.2 among a trio of partisan candidates for prime minister.
That said, the Ruam Thai Sang Chart is drumming up support from among any renegade MPs for Prayut to retain his premiership, given the possibility of grabbing a minimum of 25 MP seats to be eligible to name him as a partisan contender for the top post. Pitting Prayut for prime minister again, Ruam Thai Sang Chart electoral contestants might probably win MP seats of Bangkok and southern constituencies, among others.
The average man on the street would already understand that Thaksin’s homecoming efforts would be very unlikely to bear fruit only if Prayut remained in power after the general election, thus prompting the hush-hush agreement between one side staunchly loyal to the de facto Pheu Thai boss and the other closely connected with the self-inspired Prawit. ”Looks like both of them are having a common adversary, to say the least,” the observer put it.
Prawit has apparently built up self-confidence and self-inspiration since he earlier became caretaker prime minister for seven weeks during which Prayut had been ordered by court to stop performing as head of government, pending a court ruling on his eight-year tenure.
MP Veerakorn Khamprakop, concurrently acting as deputy Palang Pracharath director after the “renegade” Suchart Chomklin had been pressed to quit as the party’s director for having allegedly persuaded fellow MPs to hop over to the pro-Prayut camp, strongly suggested the current premier who has been legally allowed to run the country only for two years after the general election be kept at bay once and for all.
Whilst the government needs consistency in carrying out policies in the interests of the country and people as pledged during electoral campaigns, the fact that Prayut could only run the country half-way would unnecessarily generate dissatisfaction and frustrations to all sectors either inside or outside of the political arena, according to the veteran lawmaker.
Top and Front Page: Deputy Prime Minister/Palang Pracharath Party leader Prawit Wongsuwan, left, and former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, right. Top photo: Thai Rath, Front Page photo: Getty Images and published by BBC
First insert: Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, right and Deputy Prime Minister/Palang Pracharath Party leader Prawit Wongsuwan, left. Photo: Thai Rath
Second insert: Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, left, and former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, right. Photo: Thai Rath
Third Insert: Election in Thailand. Photo: Matichon