Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Pro-democracy coalition’s fears ease after momentary blip

Apr 14. 2019
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By KAS CHANWANPEN
THE NATION

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THE POWER struggle continues unabated after last month’s election with both the anti- and pro-junta groups battling neck and neck to form a coalition government, while the Election Commission (EC) has failed to announce the allocation of Lower House seats even three weeks after the vote.

Following a war of words over the weekend amid rumours that the middle-sized New Economics Party had been won over by Phalang Pracharat – which supports the return of General Prayut Chan-o-cha as premier – Pheu Thai Party’s core leaders were quick to reiterate that the six-MP party remained with the pro-democracy league.

Pheu Thai’s de facto leader Khunying Sudarat Keyuraphan on Saturday night posted on Facebook that she believed New Economics leader Mingkwan Sangsuwan would not break his word to voters that he would not side with the junta.

Her colleague, party secretary-general Phumtham Wechayachai, delivered a similar message via Facebook, stressing he believed Mingkwan was a man of his word.

“I never believed the rumours that Phalang Pracharat is forming a coalition with support from parties that campaigned against the junta. I never did,” he wrote.

Prior to those movements, news circulated on Saturday that Phalang Pracharat had managed to gather over 250 MPs to set up a coalition government with the help of the |New Economics Party, which had defected from the pro-democracy front.

The rumours caused uproar among a large number of netizens who vented their frustrations on Twitter and Facebook, expressing disappointment and reprimanding Mingkwan for betraying their trust. The hashtag #Mingkwan was trending top on Twitter with hundreds of thousands of tweets.

Mingkwan issued a statement in the evening dismissing the news, saying he had never entered into any political negotiations with Phalang Pracharat.

Though Mingkwan had said on several occasions before and after the election that he was opposed to a military-led regime and would join the pro-democracy camp, public distrust grew after the New Economics Party failed to turn up at the democratic front’s press conference, held to claim victory and to sign a pact to collaborate in opposing the junta.

Many observers viewed New Economics as insincere and non-committal. 

Though the election results are yet to be confirmed by the poll agency, it is estimated that the pro-democracy league led by Pheu Thai and Future Forward has 247 to 255 seats – placing it in a grey area to claim legitimacy to form a government.

Hence, the camp’s coalition must rely on MPs from smaller parties such as New Economics. Though New Economics may have only six MPs, its decision could make or break the Pheu Thai-led coalition.

There are other grey areas too: parties such as Democrat and Bhumjaithai, which have won over 30 and 50 seats respectively, have yet to commit to any side.

It might be unthinkable for the Democrats to join hands with old foes Pheu Thai but this does not necessarily mean it would side with Phalang Pracharat to support a Prayut-led government.

The country’s oldest and most established party is now divided into two factions: one backs support for Prayut to deter Pheu Thai while the other group wants the party to sit in opposition.

Bhumjaithai, meanwhile, remains non-committal while also being pressured by the large party Pheu Thai.

In the same posts reiterating that Mingkwan remained with the pro-democracy front, Pheu Thai leaders seemed also to warn Bhumjaithai to not betray the voters’ trust.

Sudarat wrote that some veteran politicians might use the same old trick of going back on their word and claim it was for the national interest, to justify their collaboration with the junta.

“You think voters will forget easily. Well, try them,” she wrote. “If you betray them this time, you |will become extinct in the next |election.”

Phumtham, meanwhile, tweeted: “Whoever betrays the voters, don’t vote for them next time.” 

In a related development, EC president Ittiporn Boonpracong yesterday said he respected the people’s rights to petition for the impeachment of him and his colleagues over alleged irregularities in the March 24 election.

“People can exercise their rights. I’m ready to provide any information any agencies will request from the EC,” Ittiporn said. “It’s up to these agencies to decide if we are guilty.”

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