PHOTO: The political dance of horse-trading begins. Prayut Chan-o-cha in campaign mode
And so we awake on the second day since the election. With 95% of votes counted we’re in firm territory now as far as voting trends are concerned . So we can start guessing which way the new parliament might be formed. Here are the main issues for Tuesday.
The missing NZ ballots
The Election Commission will meet today to decide what to do with the ‘invalid’ ballots delivered late to polling booths. In one example, the Thai Embassy in New Zealand and Thai Airways have both defended their situation saying they did everything correctly by getting the votes sorted and delivered in time. Whether the votes are included or not will come down to decision from the Election Commission. The bottomline, the votes won’t change the big picture although we are sure the expats voting in New Zealand would like their votes to be counted.
The Election Commission
The body tasked with running the election, counting and collating the votes have come under attack from all sides. From minor lapses in security, a few poorly handled situations in booths to some more major accusations that are currently being investigated by police. The overseas observers have not been particularly impressed by the EC’s performance either citing a number of small issues at booths around the country.
But the EC’s biggest battles are yet to come as they will be forced to adjudicate on who has the right to form a coalition. Both Pheu Thai and Palang Pracharat maintain they have the ‘right’ to form a lower house government. Just imagine all the late night phone calls criss-crossing the country at the moment?!
We won’t even get started on the petition to oust the Election Commission which has already gained over 600,000 signatures.
No one party will have an outright majority to form a government. Both Palang Pracharat and Pheu Thai will have to do deal with ‘hostiles’ in order to make up the numbers to form a lower house government. There are very few combinations of parties coming together where a LOT of distance will have to be covered to merge their competing policy differences.
Future Forward, the party with the third highest total seats, has little common ground with Pheu Thai, apart from wanting to rid the country of the military government. They’re even further, terminally separated really, from Palang Pracharat.
Future Forward has laid down three conditions for a coalition, based on its campaign pledges – to rewrite the constitution, eliminate the legacy of military coups and push for military reform so coups won’t happen again. Their 80+ votes would push Pheu Thai into an extremely strong position to form a government.
But the Democrats and BumJaiThai are likely more accommodating to negotiation, although seeing the Democrats side with Pheu Thai, once mortal political enemies, would be a long-shot. It’s more likely the Democrats would, if pushed, side with Palang Pracharat with their 53 lower house seats.
BumJaiThai is more complex to predict which way they will side. Their 51 or so seats will be a powerful swing, whichever way they go.
The other smaller parties, together, add up to a crucial buffer for one party or the other.
Most likely scenario
Casting our eyes into the political crystal ball (always dangerous in Thai politics), The Thaiger thinks that the Pheu Thai party is the more likely to be able to form a government – either with a decent majority (with BumJaiThai giving them their votes) or with the merest of slim majorities if BJT side with Palang Pracharat. Either way Pheu Thai are going to have to let some of their power slip to accommodate the other parties. And you can be assured that Thaksin is sitting comfortably, still in exile, crunching numbers and overseeing the discussions.
Even if this happens, the pro-military Senators may ignore the lower house mandate (if Pheu Thai pull it together) and side with Palang Pracharat to install Prayut as the PM of a new minority Government.
This would be highly unstable with almost all legislation being voted down in the lower house and needing both houses to sit to pass any new legislation. It wouldn’t be pretty.
The Thai elephant in the room
The Election Commission announced yesterday that they wouldn’t announce the official results of the election until… are you ready… May 9! That’s after the coronation of HM The King.
Whether parties can legally negotiate until the official results of the March 24 have been announced is a moot point – they already have.
The Coronation will therefore take place with a caretaker government and that point hasn’t even come up for discussion yet.
Thai elephant in the room II
Thaksin Shinawatra would be disappointed that his Pheu Thai government didn’t poll better but he’s already stated the bleeding obvious; that the system was specifically rigged to lessen the chances of yet another Pheu Thai victory. Despite living in exile, his political cunning will be felt in the coming weeks as he cobbles together a Pheu Thai coalition with other parties.
Thanathorn says he’s confident he won’t be penalised by the EC
Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, the leader of Future Forward Party, says he’s confident he won’t be penalised by the Election Commission over allegations he breached the Constitution and the election by holding shares in a media company, V Luck Media, when registering for the March 24 election.
Thanathorn says he will submit his defence with the commission by next Monday and insists on his innocence.
Thanathorn is dismissing the possibility that he could be penalised by the EC by being barred from running in elections for one year, leading to his being disqualified as an MP.
The commission sent Thanathorn a formal notice on Wednesday that he was charged for breaching the Constitution and the MP election law after he was allegedly found to be in possession of 675,000 shares in the media firm when he registered his election candidacy. Thanathorn was given seven days to respond to the charge.
The Constitution and the MPs Election Act forbid poll candidates from being proprietors or share-holders of media companies. Thanathorn insisted that he had transferred all the shares to his mother prior to his candidacy registration and dismissed the charge against him as part of what he described as “politics of personal destruction.”
The Future Forward Party came in third place, behind Pheu Thai and Phalang Pracharat, and ahead of the Democrats, in votes from the March 24 poll. The party was only formed in the last year and put up the fiery 41 year old as its leader and prime ministerial candidate.
Thanathorn faces more charges from EC over media shares
Future Forward’s Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, the 40 year old leader of the new party, has cut short his trip to Europe over an ‘unexpected incident’
The Thai Election Commission yesterday unanimously resolved to press charges against Thanathorn over an alleged violation of Thai media shareholding rules.
Citing investigations by two EC panels, Sawang Boonmee, the EC deputy secretary-general, told a press conference that Thanathorn had allegedly violated the law by owning or holding 675,000 shares in V-Luck Media Company while registering as a candidate for the general election.
“Thanathorn’s share certificate number is from 1350001 to 2025000,” said Sawang, referring to the findings of two panels the EC had set up to investigate the case.
Thanathorn has been accused of contravening the electoral laws that state a shareholder in a media company is barred from contesting an election for member of parliament, according to the EC. The action is punishable by disqualification. The case was filed by Srisuwan Janya, secretary-general of the Association for Protection of the Thai Constitution, on March 25.
An EC source said the agency had yet to suspend Thanathorn’s right to contest in elections for one year or give him an “orange” card, as it was just an initial charge. Thanathorn will have seven days to give testimony or submit documents in his defence to the EC, Sawang said, adding his lawyers would also be allowed to witness the trial.
After the testimony, the EC will finalise the case as soon as possible in order to finish it before May 9 when it will announce the election results.
Thanathorn, whose party is tipped to win around 80 MP seats in the new lower house, was on the way back from his tour to Europe. He posted on his Facebook page yesterday that he had been notified to quickly return to Thailand to face an “unexpected incident”.
Future Forward secretary-general, Piyabutr Saengkanokkul has questioned the EC’s decision, saying the poll agency needs to wait until Thanathorn is endorsed as an MP before it can question his qualification.
Meanwhile, Raksagecha Chaechai, secretary-general of the Office of Ombudsman, said the EC had until today (Wednesday) to submit an explanation to the office regarding a petition seeking an annulment of the March 24 election.
The office last week resolved to accept the petition filed by the now-defunct Thai Raksa Chart Party’s former MP candidate, Reungkrai Leekijwatana, who asked the office to submit its opinion to the Administrative Court or the Constitutional Court regarding whether last month’s election should be annulled.
SOURCE: The Nation
New Economics Party clarifies their support for pro-democracy coalition
PHOTO: Mingkwan Sangsuwan, New Economics Party leader – The Nation
Leader of the New Economics Party Mingkwan Sangsuwan hasy reiterated his party’s intention to join with the pro-democracy coalition (Pheu Thai, Future Forward) and against the pro-junta party, Phalang Pracharat.
Amid uncertainty over which camp New Economics would work with after the election, Mingkwan has clarified he would not join with Phalang Pracharat because of “ideological differences”.
Six New Economics candidates were elected in the March 24 poll. Mingkwan gave assurances at today’s press conference that none of the new MPs would defect. The party’s deputy leader, Supadit Argadriks, also repeated the party’s intent to help uphold democracy with a constitutional monarchy, and live up to its pledge to voters.
Some of the party’s members yesterday petitioned the Election Commission to dissolve the party, alleging it had fallen under outside influences related to powerful business interests. But the deputy leader insisted today that the party was united. He said the complaint had stemmed from a misunderstanding.
Supadit said legal action would be taken against the plaintiffs who filed the petition with the EC.
SOURCE: The Nation
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