Decision on Move Forward could have a domino effect

MONDAY, JUNE 17, 2024

How the potential dissolution of either Move Forward or Bhumjaithai parties or both could affect the political scenario

Both supporters and opponents of the Move Forward Party are keeping a close watch on the Constitutional Court, which will be considering the fate of the party tomorrow (June 18) after ordering the Election Commission (EC), the plaintiff, to submit additional witness evidence.

Speculation is rife that the Move Forward Party might well be dissolved, triggering a political domino effect in the near future.

Decision on Move Forward could have a domino effect

Some observers are comparing the similarities and differences between the possible dissolution of the Move Forward Party and the previous case of the Bhumjaithai Party’s dissolution. However, the two cases are very different even though the dissolution of one or both would have a significant effect on the political arena.

The EC has argued that the two cases involve different issues and are governed by different legal articles.
In the case of the Move Forward Party, Article 92 of the Organic Act on Political Parties was invoked, similar to the case of the dissolution of the Thai Raksa Chart Party, on which the Constitutional Court had already ruled.

In this case, it took only one month to adjudicate and dissolve the party.

Decision on Move Forward could have a domino effect

In the case of Bhumjaithai, the Constitutional Court previously ruled on the case involving Saksayam Chidchob, the former Secretary-General of Bhumjaithai and former Minister of Transport, who was found to have unlawfully held shares in Buri Charoen Construction, which led to a secondary issue: the petition to dissolve Bhumjaithai for receiving donations from Buri Charoen Ltd.

However, for the Bhumjaithai Party, Article 93 of the same Act applies, requiring the EC to gather the evidence independently, which takes at least 30 days or longer if the evidence is deemed insufficient.

The EC explained that dissolving Bhumjaithai could be based on three criteria, any one of which could justify the party’s dissolution. These are: Procedural illegality, such as the case where the Future Forward Party borrowed money illegally; Lack of qualification or prohibited qualification of the donor; and Legitimacy of the money source.

Decision on Move Forward could have a domino effect

In the Bhumjaithai case, under the source of money criterion, it should be noted that donation itself is not prohibited by law.

Under the qualification of the donor criterion, this must be separated from the allegation of concealing shares, and the focus is on whether the donating company was legally registered, which it was, making it qualified to donate.

As for the legitimacy of the money source, the EC does not have the authority to determine the legality of the money source. This is within the purview of the court, the Anti-Money Laundering Office (AMLO), and the Narcotics Control Board (ONCB).

Moreover, the issue of Bhumjaithai’s donations can be compared with the Palang Pracharath Party’s donations and their connections to grey funds, which were questioned by the AMLO but have so far been met with silence.

Bhumjaithai also sees the issue as a personal fault, and this has been stressed by Supachai Jaisamut, the party registrar and legal expert, who commented that the case involving Saksayam pertains only to his ministerial qualifications and not to his role as party secretary, hence not implicating the party.

This is compared with the case of the hidden asset case of former PM Thaksin Shinawatra. If interpreted this way, the maximum penalty would only be a personal fault limited to Saksayam.

In April, Ittiporn Boonprakong, the chairman of the EC, spoke about the progress in the dissolution case of Bhumjaithai, which has been under investigation since mid-2023. While this was expected to be clarified by May, the process is still pending with the EC.

Currently, Bhumjaithai is awaiting information from relevant government agencies to determine whether the money donated by Buri Charoen Ltd was legal. If the findings are positive, Bhumjaithai’s chances of avoiding dissolution are high.

If the result is negative, the scenario of petitioning for the party's dissolution, along with potential additional legal actions, is likely to follow.

The potential dissolution of either the Move Forward or Bhumjaithai parties or both could have a domino effect causing a cascade of changes in the political arena.

This is especially true for Bhumjaithai, currently the second-largest party in the ruling coalition, for which the pending issue could significantly affect its political manoeuvring and bargaining power within the government. If the outcome is favourable, their position with 70 seats as the second coalition partner would be strengthened.

However, a negative outcome would immediately alter the balance of power in the political landscape.
Despite appearing calm on the surface, the leadership within the party is acutely aware of the potential outcomes.

The situation underscores the preparations for a power transition, with the third generation of leaders being groomed for greater roles within the party.

Even within the government coalition, it is clear that the conservative bloc is still aligned, playing the role of counterbalance against the Move Forward Party.

A shift in alliances is unlikely in the near future, but strategic manoeuvring within the coalition continues to emerge, such as the ongoing controversy over cannabis policies reflecting differing directions between the leading party and the party that proposed the policy in the first place.