By THE NATION
WITH LESS than a week before Parliament opens for the first time since the March 24 elections, the Democrat and Bhumjaithai parties are still undecided about which camp they will join.
The Democrats met for the first time yesterday under new leader Jurin Laksanavisit, but a decision on its post-election stance was not on the agenda.
“We’ll meet again to discuss which bloc we are going to or not going to join,” said Jurin, who was voted in as party leader last week. “The party has its principles and its people-oriented ideology. The members will meet [today] and we will talk about the direction of our work in Parliament.”
He also floated two names for speaker of the House of Representatives – the party’s influential former leader Banyat Banthadtan, and patriarch Chuan Leekpai. He added that the Democrats had not yet decided whom they would vote for as PM.
Bhumjaithai also did not clarify its position yesterday.
Bhumjaithai secretary-general Saksiam Chidchob said during an orientation session for MPs and a party meeting in Buri Ram province yesterday, that the responsibility had been vested in party leader Anutin Charnvirakul.
He added that the party had four core conditions: reverence for the monarchy, peace, implementation of the party’s proposals, and stability of the government.
Saksiam said none of the parties had approached Bhumjaithai yet, but Anutin will hold meetings with different parties in the next couple of days before making a decision on which bloc to join.
Observers put this uncertainty down to unfinished horse-trading.
The likelihood of both Democrat and Bhumjaithai backing the Phalang Pracharat-led coalition was accentuated by the pro-democracy camp’s desperation. Meanwhile, the anti-junta Pheu Thai offered to even sacrifice the PM’s post, despite having the most number of MPs in Parliament, to gain support from the two parties.
Sources said dissatisfaction with the seats being offered was the only factor preventing Democrat and Bhumjaithai from announcing their pro-junta stance.
The two parties reportedly are not satisfied as most of the key ministries are being handed over to Phalang Pracharat figures.
Phalang Pracharat and its allies are reportedly scheduled to discuss the matter again on Thursday.
It is believed that the Democrat Party will be offered the post of speaker of the lower house – most likely Banyat – while Bhumjaithai is expected to get the post of second deputy speaker.
The posts of first deputy speaker and chair of the government whip are expected to go to Phalang Pracharat’s MP from Chachoengsao, Suchat Tancharoen, and party-list MP Wirat Ratanasret respectively.
Phalang Pracharat is expected to also dominate the Cabinet, with the same people holding the posts of PM, deputy PMs and ministers. General Prayut Chan-o-cha will be the prime minister, while his current deputies General Prawit Wongsuwan, Somkid Jatusripitak and Wissanu Krea-ngam will continue in their positions.
Meanwhile, the portfolios for Defence, Interior, Foreign Affairs, Industry and Commerce will be given to the same old faces, namely Prawit, General Anupong Paojinda, Don Pramudwinai, Uttama Savanayana and Sontirat Sontijirawong respectively.
Also, veteran politicians like Somsak Thepsuthin, Suriya Juangroongruangkit, Anucha Nakasai and Ittipon Khumpleum, who helped Phalang Pracharat win the election, will be awarded with ministerial seats.
Other ministerial candidates include pro-coup figures such as Nattapol Teepsuwan and Puttipong Punakanta.
The Democrat Party, meanwhile, will be allocated secondary ministries such as Higher Education, Education, Justice and Labour, or secondary positions such as deputy ministers in Interior, Finance and Agriculture.
Bhumjaithai may be given both the posts of minister and deputy minister in Public Health, and deputy minister posts in the Transport, Interior, Agriculture, Finance and Commerce ministries.
Separately, Future Forward Party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit’s fate in politics hangs by a thread despite his party’s successful debut.
The Constitutional Court will on Thursday discuss whether he should be disqualified for allegedly holding shares in a media company. If found guilty, Thanathorn can be banned from elections for 20 years and jailed for one to 10 years.