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Election

Will it be same same but different after this Sunday’s vote?

Tim Newton

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Will it be same same but different after this Sunday’s vote? | The Thaiger

Thailand’s military junta, which has ruled the Land of Smiles since snatching control in a coup in 2014, is now trying to bring its leader, Prayut Chan-o-cha, back as an ‘elected’ PM in next week’s election.

The NCPO has cobbled together an ambitious economic plan that’s rests on a 1.7 trillion baht (US$54 billion) spending spree to revive competitiveness in an economy that remains hamstrung by depressed business confidence and investment.

High speed rail links, an expanded economic corridor to the east of the capital, spending on airports and new infrastructure in the capital – these are a few of the Junta’s favourite things.

Economic growth is lagging its peers in the region, productivity has weakened and companies are reluctant to invest whilst the elephant remains in the room – political uncertainty and a whiff of military tampering.

The return of democracy this Sunday has its own risks. When the official results are eventually announced, perhaps weeks following the poll, there will be some sort of transition from military rule to civilian rule. If the Palang Pracharath party – pro-military and pro-Prayut – is able to convince voters to keep marching along, then the transition will be relatively simple.

If, however, and more likely, that a coalition of pro-democracy parties is able to form a majority in the country’s lower house of Parliament, the transition may become ‘messy’.

The new government will crow loudly that they have a mandate to unravel some of the long-term economic plans, and even the constitution, that was put in place by the NCPO during their half decade in power.

But the military-appointed upper house of review, the National Legislative Assembly, will likely quash any changes to the military’s ‘vision’.

And on we will go – more political uncertainty, more unrest, and potentially, more protests in the future.

Groundhog Day.

Thailand’s establishment elites, principally based around Bangkok and parts of the south, have dueled for power with the populist alliances of former premier (and now fugitive) Thaksin Shinawatra for over a decade, a fault line that could bring gridlock to the next parliament.

Thaksin and his proxy parties have prevailed in each election since 2001, only to be unseated by the military or the courts each time, most recently in 2014 when the Yingluck Shinawatra government was kicked out of office.

The ongoing instability weighs heavily on Thailand’s competitiveness and investment allure.

Thailand hasplunged 10 places on the World Economic Forum’s global competitiveness index in the past 11 years, the biggest drop among South East Asia’s top economies – to rank 38 out of 140 countries in 2018.

The index measures everything from the openness of the economy and quality of infrastructure to the strength of institutions and innovation.

But Prayut has cut red tape, making Thailand one of the 10 most improved nations in the World Bank’s Doing Business 2018 rankings as it vies with neighbours such as Vietnam for investment.

Now it’s the Thai voters who take the next step in this achingly slow politically drama that casts a long shadow over the future of Thailand.

Keep in contact with The Thaiger by following our Facebook page.

Tim Newton has lived in Thailand since 2012. An Australian, he has worked in the media, principally radio and TV, for nearly 40 years. He has won the Deutsche Welle Award for best radio talk program, presented 3,900 radio news bulletins in Thailand alone, hosted 360 daily TV news programs, produced 1,800 videos, TV commercials and documentaries and is now CEO and writer for The Thaiger - Website, Radio, TV, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. He presented for CNN, Deutsche Welle TV, CBC, Australia's ABC TV and Australian radio during the 2018 Cave Rescue and provides stories for Feature Story News as the south east Asian correspondent.

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Election

Palang Pracharat are warned not to renege on Thai ministry promises

The Thaiger

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Palang Pracharat are warned not to renege on Thai ministry promises | The Thaiger

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

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Election

Palang Pracharat still quibbling over portfolios in the new Thai parliament

The Thaiger

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Palang Pracharat still quibbling over portfolios in the new Thai parliament | The Thaiger

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.
  • 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.
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Election

“We were robbed of victory” – Future Forward’s Thanathorn

The Thaiger

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“We were robbed of victory” – Future Forward’s Thanathorn | The Thaiger

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

“We were robbed of victory” - Future Forward's Thanathorn | News by The Thaiger

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