Efforts to cobble together Thai government face further delay

Despite winning the May 14 election with 151 Lower House seats, the Move Forward Party and Mr Pita Limjaroenrat have been unable to form the government.

Tan Tam Mei

Tan Tam Mei

The Straits Times


Protesters holding up posters of Move Forward Party leader Pita Limjaroenrat during a demonstration in Bangkok on July 29. PHOTO: AFP/THE STRAITS TIMES

August 4, 2023

BANGKOK – The logjam preventing the formation of a new Thai government after the May election continues, as a parliamentary sitting to choose the premier on Friday has been delayed, pending a court verdict.

The postponement on Thursday followed a Constitutional Court announcement that it needed more time to review a petition that challenged Parliament’s July 19 decision to deny Move Forward Party (MFP) candidate Pita Limjaroenrat a second shot at being nominated as prime minister.

The court also said that it was seeking more information regarding the case, as it involved “important issues” related to the principles of constitutional monarchy that needed careful consideration.

It will consider the case on Aug 16, said the court’s release.

Despite winning the May 14 election with 151 Lower House seats, the MFP and Mr Pita have been unable to form the government, largely due to a lack of support from conservative lawmakers who have rebuffed the party’s progressive policies, in particular, its plan to reform the lese-majeste law that criminalises insult to the monarchy.

On July 13, Mr Pita – who is MFP leader – failed to garner enough support from lawmakers in his first attempt to secure the votes needed to become prime minister.

A week later, the 42-year-old was denied a second try when a majority of MPs and senators backed a parliamentary rule that prevents a motion from being resubmitted in the same session.

Following the court’s announcement, House Speaker Wan Muhamad Noor Matha said that Friday’s parliamentary sitting to select Thailand’s 30th prime minister would be put on hold, pending the legal decision.

The Pheu Thai Party, which was runner-up in the election, was scheduled to nominate its candidate, real estate mogul Srettha Thavisin, 60, for the coming vote.

On Thursday, the party also cancelled a planned press conference to announce its new coalition partners after it parted ways with the MFP, which was its main partner in the former alliance of non-military parties.

Pheu Thai, which is linked to former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, on Wednesday dropped the MFP from its plans to form a government, after facing strong resistance from conservative and military-linked parties whom it needed on its side to successfully nominate Mr Srettha to be prime minister.

In his first public comments since the MFP was relegated to the opposition camp, Mr Pita posted on social media on Thursday saying that he was not “disappointed” and instead was filled with “energy”. He said the MFP would serve the people to its fullest ability.

The MFP had brought the initial bloc comprising 312 MPs together in May.

But in July, the MFP handed the baton to Pheu Thai to lead the coalition, after it was denied majority support from the 750-member Parliament, which includes 500 elected MPs and the 250-member junta-selected Senate.

Efforts to cobble together Thai government face further delay

Members of Parliament take part in a session of the parliament in Bangkok, Thailand, on Aug 3, 2023. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

The protracted hold-up in Thailand’s next administration will affect upcoming policy, budgets and international dealings, said political analyst Punchada Sirivunnabood.

“The delay (of Friday’s vote) will, however, give Pheu Thai more time to guarantee it has enough votes from the Senate to secure Srettha for PM,” she said, noting that with Pheu Thai’s 141 MPs and the new possible coalition configurations, the party will still need Senate support.

The confluence of events and continued political deadlock could derail supposed plans by Pheu Thai patriarch Thaksin to return to Thailand on Aug 10.

This is not the first time that Thaksin, who has spent 15 years overseas in self-exile to avoid criminal charges, has vowed to return, and like many others, Dr Punchada is sceptical of his homecoming.

“Securing Pheu Thai’s choice of PM is one thing, but there are still other negotiations and dealings that will have to be settled,” she said.

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