Thai PM candidate Pita Limjaroenrat aims to form 'a democratic government' with 8-party coalition
BANGKOK: Thai prime ministerial candidate Pita Limjaroenrat announced on Thursday (May 18) his Move Forward Party will form a democratic government with seven political allies after clinching victory in the country’s general election.
The coalition currently comprises eight parties, namely Move Forward, Pheu Thai, Prachachat, Thai Liberal Party, Thai Sang Thai, Fair, Plung Sungkom Mai and Pue Thai Rumphlang. Together they have 313 seats in the 500-member House of Representatives.
Mr Pita declared the parties’ mutual intention to form “a democratic government of the people”.
“Every vote from the people is the voice of hope, the voice of change. The new government will carry out its duty with honesty towards the power of the people and be the government for every Thai,” said 42-year-old Pita during a press conference at The Okura Prestige Bangkok Hotel.
“Every party agreed to support the leader of the Move Forward Party – myself, Pita Limjaroenrat – to become the 30th prime minister, according to the majority of people’s votes in the general election.”
Mr Pita also disclosed the coalition is working on a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to determine a common direction of work and mutual agendas. The MOU aims to solve the political, economic and social crisis in Thailand and will be shared with the public on May 22.
The date will mark the 9th anniversary of a coup d’etat by the incumbent prime minister, Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, who seized power from Ms Yingluck Shinawatra’s democratically elected government on May 22, 2014.
On Thursday, Mr Pita also revealed that the coalition is in the process of forming a committee to ensure a smooth transition of government.
Most of the coalition parties used to work together in the opposition when Gen Prayut led the government.
The retired general became prime minister in 2014 following the coup d’etat. His junta ruled Thailand for nearly five years before a general election was held in 2019 under a new constitution written by a military-appointed committee.
At that time, Gen Prayut was running for the premiership under the pro-junta party Palang Pracharat. He managed to form the government with his political allies, although it was the Pheu Thai Party that had a majority of seats in the House of Representatives.
The incumbent prime minister joined the electoral race on Sunday, hoping to stay in power after more than eight years on the job.
Preliminary results published by the Election Commission on Monday showed the Move Forward Party in first place with 152 seats. In second and third places were the Pheu Thai Party and the Bhumjaithai Party, which won 141 seats and 70 seats respectively.
Gen Prayut’s party United Thai Nation suffered losses and came fifth with 36 seats, following the Palang Pracharat Party, which came fourth with 40 seats.
Although Mr Pita and his allies have taken up the majority of seats in the House of Representatives, his premiership is not guaranteed.
Under Thailand’s current constitution, the selection of the prime minister involves both the House of Representatives – the lower house of parliament – and the 250-member Senate – the upper house.
For Mr Pita to become prime minister, he must be approved by more than half of the combined assembly. This means he needs to consolidate at least 376 votes – either from both Houses or only from the Lower House.
Standing between Mr Pita and the premiership are the 250 senators, who were selected and appointed by Gen Prayut’s military government after the 2014 coup.
Following the last general election in 2019, all but one senator – Senate speaker Pornpetch Wichitchonchai – voted for Gen Prayut’s premiership.
According to Mr Pita, the coalition has plans for several scenarios that could happen in the future, including the parliamentary vote for the prime minister.
“We can reduce risks that could otherwise result in uncertainty in the forming of the government. Therefore, I have no concern,” he said on Thursday.
“I confirm the vote will go through.”
The Move Forward Party leader affirmed that the votes from the 313 members of parliaments in his coalition are sufficient to determine the prime minister in a democratic system.
Still, he admitted there could be unexpected scenarios and the coalition is working to ensure the forming of the government can take place smoothly and with stability.
THAI ROYAL DEFAMATION LAW: A POLITICAL FAULTLINE
Mr Pita’s race for the premiership will be determined in a joint sitting of the parliament, and he needs support from at least 376 parliamentarians.
At present, it is clear that he will not receive the approval of at least 70 potential Members of Parliament (MPs) from the Bhumjaithai Party.
The political group issued a statement on Wednesday, maintaining it will not support a prime minister candidate whose party’s policies include the amendment or abolishment of the royal defamation law.
The law is Section 112 of the Thai Criminal Code. It stipulates that whoever defames, insults or threatens the king, the queen, the heir-apparent or the regent shall be punished with imprisonment of three to fifteen years.
“The Bhumjaithai Party does not support a prime minister who has a policy to amend or abolish Section 112 of the Criminal Code. The party’s standpoint is that it will not take part in the forming of the government with political parties which have a policy to amend or abolish Section 112 of the Criminal Code,” the statement said.
“This standpoint is a key principle of the Bhumjaithai Party. It cannot be changed or negotiated.”
A few prime ministerial candidates have backed the amendment of the royal defamation law, including Mr Pita, who once described it as “problematic”.
His party has proposed several changes to the law, such as reducing the penalty and assigning the Royal Household Bureau as the sole entity to press charges.
At present, lese-majeste is an offence related to national security and complaints can be made by anyone.
Meanwhile, secretary-general of the United Thai Nation Party Akanat Promphan admitted the electoral loss and acknowledged that the forming of the government under the leadership of the Move Forward Party is “a normal process”.
“The United Thai Nation Party did not come first, so that is not our duty or mission. I personally will not challenge or obstruct other parties’ mission,” he wrote on his Facebook page on Thursday.