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Prayut cagey as party seeks to enlist him as chief adviser

Mar 12. 2018
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A NEWLY registered political party reportedly is seeking Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha to become its chief adviser.

Prayut has not dismissed the report. And no government figures have clearly ruled out the possibility of the junta chief becoming involved with a party ahead of the next election.

However, the latest political development has in effect revived suspicion that the ruling National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) may be seeking to return to power after the next election, which is now expected to be held “no later than” February, as has most recently been promised by Prayut.

Observers and critics have pointed out that the NCPO and its organs, including the National Legislative Assembly, often acted in ways that were viewed as attempts to enable the junta to remain in power after the election.

If political history is any indication, such concerns are not beyond reality. Coup-makers in Thailand have often set up political parties and contested the following election, in apparent bids to extend their stay in power. Pro-military parties often succeeded in winning elections in the distant past, but not in the past decade, when they gained only a handful of House seats.

A man named Chuan Choojan has applied to establish a new party called Palang Pracha Rath (Power of the Public State) when the Election Commission (EC) began its pre-registration of parties on March 2. The term Pracha Rath resembles the name of the government’s development project that is being implemented all over the country.

Little known in the political arena previously, Chuan is a leader of the Khlong Lat Mayom Floating Market community in Bangkok’s Taling Chan district.

Chuan yesterday did not confirm or deny the report that his party was seeking to enlist Prayut as its chief adviser and prime ministerial candidate. He also thanked the media for reporting that a current Cabinet member was going to become its leader, but again did not confirm or deny it.

According to Chuan, the party will have members who are former MPs and ex-senators, whom he declined to identify. “We will wait until the EC approves our application for party registration,” he said.

Palang Pracha Rath is one of almost 50 new parties to be set up. And it is one of many parties that have promised to support Prayut’s return as prime minister after the election.

According to the new rules to be applied in the next election, Prayut could come back as government head through either of two channels. First, he could be nominated by a political party as its candidate. According to the election law, every party contesting an election needs to nominate no more than three candidates to become prime minister in a government that it forms after winning the election.

However, the party needs to get consent from that person to enrol him or her as its candidate and one person can be a candidate for only one political party.

Judging from his current status and duties, it is unlikely that Prayut – who is to take the caretaker role in the run-up to the election – will allow himself to become a candidate of any single political party in particular. He will probably not risk being singled out or even coming under attack by rival parties and politicians campaigning against his return to power. And his actions while serving as the caretaker prime minister would be viewed as being biased in favour of the party that nominated him as its candidate.

If Prayut actually wanted to come back as prime minister, he would almost certainly choose the second option. 

According to the Constitution in effect since April last year, if the 500-member House of Representatives failed to reach an accord as to who should become prime minister, a decision would need to be made jointly by two Houses.

With involvement of the Senate, all of its 250 members selected by the NCPO, there is a high likelihood that Prayut would be nominated and voted to become the next prime minister.


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