August 4, 2023
BANGKOK – Pheu Thai has taken up the responsibility of forming the government after the party with the most number of seats, Move Forward Party, failed in its efforts. Senior Pheu Thai figures on Wednesday announced the party’s “divorce” from Move Forward to stitch together a new coalition.
Move Forward, which won 151 MP seats in the May 14 general election, and Pheu Thai (141 MPs) were earlier part of an eight-party coalition that described itself as “the democratic camp”.
Move Forward stepped aside to make way for Pheu Thai to lead the coalition after its leader and sole prime ministerial candidate, Pita Limjaroenrat, failed to secure sufficient support from both Houses of Parliament to become the next prime minister.
Pheu Thai said on Wednesday that the party needed to form a new coalition as political parties outside the eight-party alliance and senators firmly refused to vote for Move Forward due to its plan to amend Article 112 of the Criminal Code, or the lese majeste law.
Critics pointed out that Move Forward’s proposed amendments to the law would severely undermine the Thai monarchy and national security.
Phumtham said on Thursday that all the political parties elected to the House of Representatives represent different groups in Thai society.
“If we want to move forward, the country must reach reconciliation. The best choice is to listen to viewpoints from all political parties and groups that already have got their representatives elected [to the House],” Phumtham said.
“A government that comes from diversity would gain acceptance. It depends on the [elected] political parties as to how they form their alliance and the reaction from society would be the answer,” he added.
Phumtham said that Pheu Thai was working to “gather support from all sides” for its ongoing attempt to form a new coalition government.
According to him, a new coalition would include some political parties from Pheu Thai’s original alliance and others from the outgoing government. The goal was to garner at least 376 votes from coalition partners and senators in order to secure majority support from both Houses of Parliament, he said.
“We need to form a stable government that can work smoothly while tackling the country’s crisis and easing political conflict,” Phumtham said.
Pheu Thai is facing a dilemma in its efforts to form a new coalition government that excludes Move Forward.
The party is reportedly trying to avoid including Palang Pracharath and United Thai Nation parties – which are associated with outgoing Deputy Premier General Prawit Wongsuwan and outgoing Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha, respectively – as the two generals are linked to the 2014 military coup and the subsequent junta. But Pheu Thai also needs majority support from both Houses of Parliament, and votes from senators are necessary for its candidate to be elected prime minister.
Both Prayut and Prawit are believed to retain their influence over many of the 250 senators they appointed while serving in the post-coup junta.
When asked on Thursday if Pheu Thai’s coalition government would include Palang Pracharath and United Thai Nation, Phumtham declined to give a clear answer. He said Pheu Thai was aware of its supporters’ feelings but that the party was now focusing on seeking votes for its PM candidate.
Phumtham also disputed Move Forward’s claim that Pheu Thai never asked it to back off from its plan to amend the lese majeste law.
“That’s not true,” Phumtham said on Thursday. He explained that senior Pheu Thai figures, including him, had repeated their party’s stance against Move Forward’s plan to amend Article 112 and had warned them the issue could obstruct their efforts to form a new government.