by Tim Newton
The views of the writer do not necessarily reflect the views of The Thaiger or its business partners.
Since it was first formed in 2008, along with the previous incarnations that swept Thaksin Shinawatra to power in the early 2000s, the Pheu Thai party has remained the dominant force in Thai politics. In 2011 it brought Thaksin’s sister Yingluck to the prime minster’s desk. But a coup in 2014 swept the elected government out of office citing dangerous street protests that had broken out between the Red Shirts (Thaksin sympathisers, mostly representing the populous north and north-east regions) and Yellow Shirts (Bangkok elite, ‘monarchists’ and southern provinces)*.
The maths are quite simple. All things being equal, the Pheu Thai and pro-Thaksin parties would win the March 24 election by sheer weight of numbers of the country’s north-of-Bangkok population base.
But the military have shown that they will stop at nothing to reduce the possibility of Pheu Thai winning another election. They’ve changed the country’s constitution, electoral system and run a, nearly, five year campaign of one-sided propaganda to ensure that a military-sympathetic government, and PM, will rule when the dust settles on the March 24 vote.
The Thai Raksa Chart Party was set up to ‘manipulate’ the new proportional voting system for the country’s lower house of parliament. Early polls showed that the combined power of Pheu Thai and Thai Raksa Chart parties, plus support from a few other minor pro-Thaksin parties, would likely give it the magic 376 MPs to command a majority and form the next government.
With the Constitutional Court disbanding Thai Raksa Chart and banning it’s MPs from forming new parties, a Pheu Thai victory is much, MUCH, more difficult. Taking advantage of the new proportional electoral system Pheu Thai only fielded candidates in 250 constituencies with Thai Raksa Chart fielding MPs in other electorates .
The Pheu Thai-led alliance still needs 376 MPs to regain political power, but it will have to win big and the votes fall their way under the new proportional system.
The mountain to climb has got a lot steeper.
To simplify an extremely complex electoral situation, you can break down the three ‘camps’ into the pro-military parties, the pro-Thaksin parties and the Democrats (and others).
According to recent polls the Pheu Thai party will win the largest share of electorates in the country, hands down. Second, a long way back, will be the Democrats (popular in the capital and southern provinces), the Phalang Pracharat party (with Prayut Chan-o-cha as its PM candidate) in third place and the new Future Forward party drawing the fourth largest block of votes (they have certainly emerged as the rising stars!).
It is statistically likely, actually highly likely, that no party will win a majority (376 seats) in the lower house of Parliament. So the phones will be running hot post March 24 as parties negotiate to form a workable coalition. The most obvious coalition, but historically unlikely, would be all the pro-Thaksin parties putting their numbers together with the Democrats – traditionally political enemies but both hell-bent in getting the military out of politics.
But TIT, it’s Thai politics and, really, anything could happen.
Proportional Voting System: All ballots cast for all parties will be counted together and calculated into the number of seats each party gets out of 500. If it is figured out that Party A gets 200 seats and it already wins 190 constituency seats in the election, it will get an additional 10 seats.
• The Palang Pracharat Party, which has Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha as its prime minister candidate, can get several seats without having to win at any constituency (under the new proportional voting system), not least because it has taken many northern and northeastern veterans under its wings.
• If a party has a lot of constituency MPs, it will have a disadvantage when it comes to getting MPs from the proportional system.
• Thai Raksa Chart branched out from Pheu Thai allegedly out of hope that “many are better than one”. The “satellite parties” do not need to win at constituencies, but they should be popular enough to gain substantial votes.
In short, Pheu Thai and its allies need a groundswell of public sympathy in the remaining two weeks. Previously hated by non-Pheu Thai voters, the ‘reds’ have become the underdogs and are getting back-handed support simply by being anti-military.
The court’s short but eloquent ruling dissolving Thai Raksa Chart will be weighed against the emotional goodbye message of the party’s leader and the outcome of that will influence voters.
Whatever happens on March 24, and the final make up of the lower house, the NCPO have ‘rigged’ the parliamentary upper house (the NLA) with military-sympathetic Senators who are all appointed.
Here’s an outrageous prediction…
A coalition of non-military parties will form the next government post March 24. Because no single party will win a majority of seats and select their own Prime Minister, the two houses of parliament will sit to elect an ‘outsider’ PM.
That ‘outsider’ will likely be (roll the drums), Prayut Chan-o-cha.
Then a ‘rubber-stamp’ upper house will continue the conservative work of the past military government amid a whole new raft of daily political squabbles.
But March 24 is still two weeks away and more surprises are likely. TIT.
* Our broad definitions of Red and Yellow shirts are VERY general
Palang Pracharat are warned not to renege on Thai ministry promises
Amidst rumours circulating that the Palang Pracharat Party may renege on some of the promises it made to secure MP votes from the Democrats and Bhumjaithai, the Democrat party leader Jurin Laksanavisit says he believes the Palang Pracharat party will keep its promises.
Thepthai Senpong MP, a key Democrat party member, is warning that the coalition government will be in big trouble if the promise is broken. He says the coalition government would “function with great difficulty” if the Palang Pracharat party does not stick to the promises it made to the Democrats, according to Thai PBS.
Meanwhile, Somsak Thepsutin, one of the Sam Mitr faction within Palang Pracharat, says that if one of their group isn’t offered the agriculture minister’s post (reportedly offered to the Democrats as part of the ‘deal’), the promises they made with Thai voters during the election campaign could be affected.
Somsak has already spoken of his aspirations to become the next agriculture minister, despite the portfolio being used as a political football during negotiations with the Democrats.
But the new leader of the Democrats, Jurin Laksanavisit insists that the issue of the quota of ministries for his MPs has already been settled. He re-iterated yesterday that Palang Pracharat would not go back on its promises to the Democrats. He added that he had not been informed of any changes to their arrangements despite being aware of the media reports about the prevarication.
SOURCES: Thai PBS | The Nation
Palang Pracharat still quibbling over portfolios in the new Thai parliament
Election – check. Vote for PM – check. New government sworn in – not quite yet.
There is still a reported back-room fight over cabinet portfolios between factions in the Palang Pracharat Party. Several key ministries were offered to Bhumjaithai and Democrat MPs in return for voting for Prayut Chan-o-cha as PM on Wednesday.
Now that Prayut’s been installed back behind the big desk at government house, there have been sources reporting wrangling and possible back-tracking over the promises made preceding the parliamentary vote on Wednesday.
- The Democrats were promised the agriculture, commerce and social development ministries while the Bhumjaithai were reportedly offered the Transport Ministry post.
- Palang Pracharat MPs claim that, as the leading party in the coalition, it should control key ministries to follow through on its election promises.
- Sira Jenjaka, a Palang Pracharat MP for Bangkok, says PPRP should oversee key portfolios which handle infrastructure and transport development projects initiated by the last administration.
- PPRP list MP Somsak Thepsuthin, a leading figure of the “Sam Mitr” faction in Palang Pracharat, claims the party needs control of the Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry and that PM Prayut will have a final say on the matter (a notion that was flatly denied by the PPRP last week).
- Palang Pracharat MP Buddhipongse Punnakanta admits the quota of cabinet posts for coalition parties “might” change but didn’t detail any of the Cabinet position affected, including the position of agriculture minister.
- Newly elected House Speaker Chuan Leekpai, a former Democrat PM, waded into the issue yesterday saying he was sure that Palang Pracharat would honour the promises made in regards to Cabinet posts offered to the Democrat and Bhumjaithai parties.
- Democrat leader Jurin Laksanavisit says the deal with the PPRP was singed and sealed and believes it would be honoured.
- Bhumjaithai leader Anutin Charvirakul says the agreement with the PPRP remains unchanged, and insisted the party will push for its election pledges to be implemented.
“We were robbed of victory” – Future Forward’s Thanathorn
Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, the 40 year old Future Forward leader who was up against Prayut Chan-o-cha for the position of PM yesterday, says that the pro-democracy alliance hasn’t conceded defeat but, he says, were “robbed of their victory”.
He is vowing to work harder outside parliament to prove that to the people.
“This election is just one battle in the long journey to achieve democracy. We fiercely believe that, in the end, our day will come. Dictatorship cannot resist the winds of change, the winds of democracy. The people will cry for freedom, cry for justice.”
Thanathorn was nominated by the Pheu Thai-led alliance as their sole PM candidate for yesterday’s vote, admitted that he had little hope that both the Democrat and the Bhumjaithai parties would make the “right decision”. Without their vote the Pheu Thai alliance wouldn’t have a majority in the lower house to make a stand (even though the Senate’s votes – 250 – would have carried Prayut Chan-o-cha over the finish line anyway). As it was he only missed winning the vote in the lower house by a handful of votes.
Thai PBS reports that, despite the election defeat, the firebrand young politician pleaded with all democracy advocates not to lose hope, but to move forward with him.
“I would like to tell my brothers and sisters that this is not our end, it is just the beginning,” he said, adding that the election result was a proof that they did not work hard enough and must strive harder.
“Future Forward party would divide its work and resources into three main areas; its MPs will undertake legislative work and check the performance of the government, the party will prepare for the forthcoming local elections and strengthen the party.”
SOURCE: Thai PBS
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