Thai Prime Minister Prayut faces censorship but eyes keep power in 2023 election


By Chananthorn Kamjan and Petchanet Pratruangkrai, KYODO NEWS – 1 hour ago – 10:01 | World, Everything

Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha faces another tough test that could oust him from power in the home stretch of his four-year term as he is set to face a fourth no-confidence vote later this month.

The Pheu Thai-led opposition bloc last month tabled a no-confidence motion against Prayut and 10 ministers for failing to address economic issues, prevent corruption and mishandle the COVID-19 pandemic crisis.

The issues are similar to those Prayut was accused of in a 2021 no-confidence motion. But it is uncertain whether he will win the vote of confidence as he finds himself in a more vulnerable position due to friction within the ruling party Palang Pracharath and the post-pandemic economic recovery hampered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

If Prayut loses, he will step down and a new prime minister will be chosen from among members of the House of Representatives, with the names of possible candidates including Deputy Prime Minister Anutin Charnvirakul, who leads coalition partner Bhumjaithai Party, emerging.

In the event that Prayut survives, Pheu Thai is expected to file a petition with the Constitutional Court to rule on the issue of Prayut’s apparent attempt to secure a controversial third term. The largest opposition, made up of supporters of deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, is trying to show voters that the government must change.

At the censorship debate likely to be held later this month, Pheu Thai promises to grill Prayut and the 10 ministers over their failure to tackle the country’s growing debt and their abuse of power by allocating budgets to strongholds coalition parties.

In the previous no-confidence motion against six ministers in September 2021, which was rejected by the ruling coalition, Prayut received the highest number of no-confidence votes amid the intra-party dispute.

This conflict ended with the breakup of the 18-member faction led by then Deputy Agriculture Minister Thamanat Prompow, who was eventually ousted from his post for his alleged attempt to overthrow Prayut.

In the next no-confidence motion, Prayut needs the votes of more than half of the current 477 members of the House of Representatives, which means he must win the support of all members of the ruling coalition’s lower house. formed by Palang Pracharath and more than 10 other parties, and those of certain opposition parties including the Thamanat party.

Wanwichit Boonprong, a professor of politics at Rangsit University, believes Prayut will survive the no-confidence motion by striking financial deals with coalition partners as well as some opposition policymakers.

But the Thai leader, supposedly aiming for a third term, would face another hurdle.

Prayut, a former army general who led a military coup in May 2014, assumed the post of prime minister of the military government in August of the same year. While his two four-year terms would end in August, Prayut’s aides have argued since earlier this year that his term technically began in 2019 under the 2017 Constitution, saying he could remain in the post. the highest in the country until 2023.

Refuting this claim, the opposition has raised a legal issue and will likely file a motion with the Constitutional Court to rule on the term issue if Prayut survives the no-confidence debate.

Stithorn Thananithichot, director of the Office of Innovation for Democracy at the King Prajadhipok Institute, said that even if the Constitutional Court rules in favor of Prayut, it is unclear whether Prayut can maintain his grip on the power and that his party wins the next general elections to be organized in the first half of 2023.

Prayut’s future depends on how many popular candidates Thaksin’s Pheu Thai, which is strong in rural areas, and other parties can field, Stithorn said, adding, “There is a chance for re-election of Prayut as Prime Minister”.

In Thailand, a prime minister is elected by popular vote of members of the lower house and senators appointed by the junta. To present candidates in the general election, a party must submit up to three names as first candidates.

While Pheu Thai has not revealed its candidates for prime minister, Paetongtarn Shinawatra, Thaksin’s youngest daughter, is expected to stand for election. Thaksin is not qualified to do so as he was ousted in a 2006 coup and fled abroad to avoid prosecution. An opinion poll at the end of June showed her to be the favorite candidate in the next general election.

Thaksin, who lives mainly in Dubai, called on Pheu Thai supporters to vote to return to power. In May, the party gained momentum with the landslide victory of Chadchart Sittipunt, a former minister in the Phue Thai government, in the election for governor of Bangkok, cementing its stronghold in the capital although Chadchart ran as independent.

However, Stithorn noted that the diversity of voters in different regions would lead to tough battles between the ruling Pheu Thai and Palang Pracharath and its partner parties in national elections.

Meanwhile, recent opinion polls have shown high rates of those who want to see political change, including the prime minister, meaning Prayut may be a weakness for Palang Pracharath.

A Bangkok resident said Prayut should not return to power because the government has performed poorly in his eight years in power, especially when it comes to the economy.

“Prayut’s government has run the country without a long-term vision to solve the economic problems. We have witnessed large public and household debts” incurred by the pandemic, the 24-year-old said.

But a motorbike taxi driver said he believed the Prayut government was not bad because it was keeping peace in the country after years of political turmoil and the prime minister’s response to the pandemic was acceptable.

“Prayut could restore peace and order to our country. I don’t like political opponents fighting against each other and turning society into chaos,” the 51-year-old said.

(Raveebhorn Chaiprapa contributed story)


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