Democrat leader says new prime minister will also need immense public support.
FORMER PREMIER Abhisit Vejjajiva has warned that it would not be an easy task for an “outsider” prime minister to run the next government, especially if he or she relies mainly on core support from the 250 selected senators.
Such a person will also need to generate public pressure to get the full support of the House of Representatives to ensure a smooth term in running the government, Abhisit said.
The Democrat Party leader also said the next government should rely on majority support from the House of Representatives. Besides, he said, the prime minister should come from the political party that wins the most seats in the election.
“I stand by the belief that a prime minister or a government must have support from the majority of the House of Representatives, which obtains its mandate directly from the people,” Abhisit said.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha is being viewed as a leading candidate for the post of prime minister after the next election. This is because the new constitution allows an “outsider” to become premier. Also, thanks to the recent referendum results, selected senators will be allowed to cast votes along with elected MPs to select a prime minister after the next Parliament convenes for the first time. The selected prime minister will have a five-year term.
The first batch of the Senate’s 250 members will be handpicked by the ruling National Council for Peace and Order.
In an interview with The Nation, Abhisit said the lower House will still carry due weight in Parliament, notwithstanding the 250 senators’ significant influence in selecting the next prime minister.
“Unless the next leader has massive public support, it will not be easy for him to survive no-confidence motions,” the former PM said.
Apart from the scenario of the PM gaining such immense public support that he could disregard elected MPs, Abhisit said there were two more options that could help an “outsider” leader, who only has the backing of 250 senators.
“One scenario is that he is with a [major] political party that has little problem with the Senate. This party could tolerate the Senate’s power in carrying out reforms and the national strategy and so forth. This way, the PM would be able to work more easily with the lower House,” he said.
“Another scenario could be the PM has the support of another [major] party that is not very friendly with the Senate. This could be more difficult and more exhausting as the same old conflicts would arise. The party would have problems with the Senate in the same way it did in the past with independent agencies and the like,” Abhisit said.
He stressed that the public must ultimately decide on how the government should be structured after the election.
However, the veteran politician said that political parties still have an important role to play and that “it is impossible for an election to be meaningless”.
“This is democracy. It is where the public always has a say on how it would like things to be,” he said.
When asked if the Democrat Party would vote to support Prayut as the next prime minister, Abhisit declined to comment, only saying that he was not sure about the final process of the prime ministerial selection.
So far, at least one political group has publicly announced its support for Prayut to become next PM. Pro-military former senator Paiboon Nititawan has said he is planning to set up a new political party called People’s Reform Party, which will nominate Prayut as the next government head.
Prayut, who led the 2014 coup before taking the top government job, said on Wednesday that if “no good people” can be found for the next PM’s post, the public could turn to him. This is the first clear remark from him about the matter.
He said yesterday that people should not fear the spectre of an outsider prime minister. Instead, he said, people should fear the ghosts of the past, which had caused damages to the country.
Apart from getting the backing of 250 senators, an outsider aspiring to become the PM will need votes from at least 126 MPs to gain a majority in the 750-member Parliament.
The Constitution Drafting Commission is revising the draft charter in response to the referendum result. It is still unclear whether by letting legislators help choose a prime minister, it means that senators can also nominate PM candidates.
Critics have pointed out that all these mechanisms would only pave the way for an outsider PM or for the current regime to retain power after the next election.
Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwan yesterday ruled out the possibility of him becoming an outsider PM.
“No, I don’t want to,” he said when asked by a reporter at the Defence Ministry.
Asked if he would “serve the country in the future”, General Prawit said, “I have done so for 50 years and am still doing it today.”
When asked what he thought General Prayut meant when he said he could be considered a candidate for the top job if “no good people” can be found, Prawit said reporters should ask the PM.