July 25, 2023
BANGKOK – Several senators declared on Monday that they will not vote for Pheu Thai in the joint parliamentary vote on Thursday if Move Forward Party remains part of the coalition.
They also told Pheu Thai not to send party-list MP Suriya Juangroongruangkit to visit them and lobby for votes for the party’s PM candidate.
Senator Seree Suwanpanont said the Constitution prohibits senators from coming under the control of political parties, so there is no point in Pheu Thai sending Suriya to them to lobby for votes.
He said senators would maintain their stance not to support any party that seeks to amend the Constitution in a way that would affect the monarchy or have an impact on key institutions of the country.
Seree was clearly referring to Move Forward, which has been planning to amend the draconian lese majeste law and to “switch off” senators’ power to elect the country’s prime minister.
In the first round of PM voting on July 13, most senators abstained and effectively blocked Move Forward PM candidate Pita Limjaroenrat from earning a simple majority to get the PM’s post.
Then last week, senators joined forces with MPs from members of the exiting coalition to stop Pita from being renominated, which resulted in the second round of the PM vote being postponed.
Move Forward then passed the baton to Pheu Thai to lead the attempt to form a coalition government.
“If Pheu Thai musters enough support from MPs for forming a government and has no policies that will affect the country’s key institutions, then the senators will support it,” Seree said.
He added that senators would not mind postponing the PM vote, so Pheu Thai can complete negotiations with its partners first.
Over the weekend, Pheu Thai held informal talks with partners of the exiting coalition and they all said they would not join the coalition or vote for Pheu Thai if Move Forward is still part of the alliance.
Senator Kittisak Ratanawaraha said he would not interfere in the formation of the next coalition, but would also not vote for any alliance that has Move Forward as a partner.
Kittisak said Suriya does not have to lobby him for votes because he is only a junior senator.
Senator Anusit Kunakorn said Pheu Thai should take into account national interest when deciding whether or not to include Move Forward in its coalition.
He said senators do not have the right to push for the PM vote to be postponed so Pheu Thai can complete its negotiations. This job, he said, is the responsibility of the Parliament president, and he will need to discuss the schedule with the whips of the two chambers.
Anusit also called on Move Forward supporters to drop plans to rally, because that will only open the door to violence.
He added that Move Forward should also change its belief that it can only be the government. Instead, he said, Move Forward can play a strong role as the opposition party.
He added that most senators have a common stand to not support any party that seeks to amend Article 112 of the Penal Code (lese majeste law) or to provide greater autonomy to the southernmost provinces, apparently referring to Move Forward’s policies.