A fresh breeze could help Thailand escape political turmoil

A fresh breeze could help Thailand escape political turmoil

The Move Forward party could bring a new breeze to Thai politics, opening the door for the country to break out of the turbulent cycle, according to experts.

Pita Limjaroenrat, leader of the Move Forward party, announced on May 18 the formation of an eight-party coalition to push ahead with plans to form a new government and become Thailand’s next prime minister, with a promise to end influence from the army. in the country’s politics for many years.

In addition to the two main parties after the recent general elections, Move Forward and Pheu Thai, Pita’s coalition is expected to have six more small parties, including Prachachart, Thai Sang Thai, Seri Ruam Thai, Fair, Palang Sangkhom Mai and Pheu Thai Ruam Falang. According to experts, this is the beginning of the negotiation process between the parties towards the formation of a coalition with a majority in the National Assembly and formation of a new government.

“While each side has its own position and the negotiation process is not an easy one, Thai political parties are facing a huge opportunity to find solutions to some key issues that have long divided society,” said political science doctor Andrew Wells. -Dang, senior Southeast Asia expert at the American Institute of Peace, told VnExpress.

The eight-party coalition will bring Pita a total of 313 votes in the bicameral session to elect a new prime minister in July, with the participation of 500 elected deputies and 250 senators appointed by the military. The new Prime Minister of Thailand must have at least 376 votes in favor in both houses, which means that Pita needs to convince at least 63 more deputies to vote for him.

Theoretically, the Move Forward party will need to find more support from the pro-military group of senators in the Senate and agree to drop the goal of military law reform, which is one of the main contents of its campaign.

Military law is considered one of the most controversial topics in Thailand ahead of the elections. Article 112 of the Thai Penal Code stipulates a prison sentence of 3 to 15 years for military service, which is defined as an act of “defaming, insulting or threatening the King, Queen, Crown Prince or Crown Prince”.

According to experts, the first signs show that Pita’s alliance and the military have a chance of finding common ground to avoid impasses on the day of the vote for prime minister. Sources familiar with the matter revealed that the proposal to reform the law, which was strongly opposed by the military, was withdrawn from the compromise of an eight-party governing coalition led by Move Forward.

The Wells-Dang expert said that after coming to power thanks to a coup in 2014, the Thai military faction created a constitution in 2017 to ensure it can maintain influence even if it no longer receives support. .

“The military side this time will probably choose to follow the results of the elections and negotiate a power-sharing agreement with the new government, but still implicitly alert for a direct intervention in the future, if it appears necessary”, he said.

MFP leader Pita Limjaroenrat (white shirt) leads the victory parade on May 15 in front of Bangkok City Hall.  Photo: AFP

Move Forward leader Pita Limjaroenrat (white shirt) led the victory parade on May 15 in front of Bangkok City Hall. Photo: AFP

Power-sharing compromises gradually took shape. The Move Forward leader said last week that eight parties in his coalition had agreed to form working groups to transition from nearly a decade of military-backed rule to a new form of government.

Although Mr. Pita said the parties had not yet entered the negotiation phase to share cabinet seats, the Thai Inquirer newspaper revealed over the weekend that Move Forward reached an agreement to retain four bodies that need to be prioritized for reform, including the Ministry of National Defence, Ministry of Internal Administration and Ministry of Internal Administration, Services, Finance and Education. Meanwhile, the Pheu Thai party will control the policy-making body in five main areas: energy, trade, transport, industry and agriculture.

Hunter Marston, an expert on Southeast Asia at the Coral Bell School of Pacific Affairs at the Australian National University (ANU), assesses the rise of the Move Forward party and the coalition government model that can avoid a scenario of political instability in Thailand in the near future .

Thailand’s military once staged a coup to overthrow the government of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in 2006. In 2014, the head of the Thai army, then General Prayuth Chan-ocha, also led the next coup to overthrow. Thaksin’s sister is Yingluck Shinawatra.

Thailand then witnessed many protests against the coup and political reforms, leading to much unrest and instability in the country.

Marston noted that the main difference in this general election is that the Pheu Thai party did not win a landslide. This eased the contradictions between the yellow and red shirt factions, between the countryside and the cities, between the army and the Shinawatra clan, which had repeatedly driven Thailand into turmoil over the past two decades.

“Move Forward is a breath of fresh air in Thai politics, bringing in a leader who represents neither of the previous two factions. The ruling coalition can be more successful and stable if it finds a way to split it. Reasonable power sharing and intervention military are no longer needed,” said Marston.

The key point that determines the future of Thai politics is the problem of cooperation between Move Forwar, Pheu Thai and the military in planning the political transition process, according to Marston. The winning coalition needs to convince the military that the transition to the new government will not threaten the Thai military or the monarchy.

Leaders of eight Thai parties met in Bangkok on May 17 to discuss forming a governing coalition.  Photo: Bangkok Post

Leaders of eight Thai parties met in Bangkok on May 17 to discuss forming a ruling coalition. Photo: Bangkok Post

Pita has become more cautious in recent years in his messages to the Senate, the military and its allies. Efforts to reform the law when the military is no longer considered a priority, he is willing to accept the issue to be discussed later in parliament.

Move Forward now does not continue to demand the complete repeal of the military service law, but just wants to make it clear that the law should only be applied when the Thai royal family makes a complaint, to avoid abuse.

Pita’s party also changed its attitude towards the Senate, going from saying it didn’t need 250 senatorial votes to ask for negotiations. Moving forward Secretary-General Chaithawat Tulathon last week stated his willingness to hold talks with senators to resolve concerns, hopes they will respect voters’ wishes and avoid letting Thai politics slide into a stalemate.

Marston agrees that the military this time can accept negotiations and go back to the sidelines, unlike what happened after the 2019 election, when Pheu Thai won a majority of votes in the general election but could not form a government. Prime Minister Prayuth’s pro-military party remained in power.

Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, leader of the Future Forward party, predecessor of the Move Forward party, that year had legal problems with the Election Commission (EC). Thailand’s Constitutional Court suspended Thanathorn’s status as an MP ahead of the prime minister’s election session, and early next year decided to dissolve Future Forward, accusing it of violating election laws.

After this year’s election, the EU is also considering a lawsuit against Pita, alleging that he owned 42,000 shares of media company iTV but failed to report this to the National Anti-Corruption Commission before taking office as a congressman in 2019.

But observers said that although the EC this time tried to prevent Pita from being elected prime minister, the Move Forward and Pheu Thai parties still managed to protect their majority in the Chamber of Deputies, meaning they control the country’s budget. government.

Marston predicted that the military side is awake enough to realize that with the enormous level of support people have for reformist parties, they will cause political chaos if they let the 2019 scenario repeat itself or intervene. stronger policies. Thailand needs a stable environment for economic recovery, which will directly affect the defense budget.

“The price to pay if they interfere or fail to recognize the election results is very high. Removing the military from the political scene will generally increase the stability of the Thai political environment. expert Marston on Thailand’s future after the elections.


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Written by Esme Dominguez

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