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Are rival parties aiming towards a coalition?

Jan 20. 2018
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By Fact Hunters, Nation TV 
The SUNDAY Nation 

2,364 Viewed

The two large rival political parties – Pheu Thai and Democrat – have both expressed their objections to the emergence of an unelected prime minister after the next general election.

This has sparked speculation that the two parties may form a political alliance to counter the new pro-military party expected to be established soon. Such a party would support the military’s continued grip on political power after the junta government steps down.

Some political observers have high hopes that the two major parties will co-operate to move the country forward, breaking free from the persistent political conflicts that have held the country back for more than a decade. 

“There is a possibility that the two parties will form an alliance, as the political landscape has changed from a fight between the two to the emergence of a third political force that may promise to continue the junta’s policies. But the two parties are unlikely to make a formal announcement of political friendship before the election, since they fear that would be a political disadvantage to their own party,” said Stithorn Thananithichot, a political scientist at King Prajadhipok’s Institute. 

But the parties may send more signals of co-operation before the election, as they have already expressed their objection to an unelected prime minister, he added.

Stithorn said a political alliance between the two former rival camps would probably happen after the election.

Stithorn may be right, because waiting until then would allow each party to maximum its own vote in the election before they pursue a joint agenda afterwards. 

The two parties might even agree to form a coalition government after the election. But before then, they will have a huge task on their hands to fight the existing alternative parties or a new political camp that supports the junta. 

Although their combined numbers in the elected House of Representatives may be over 300 – giving them a majority of the total 500 seats – the constitution also allows the 250 appointed members of the Senate to vote on the selection of prime minister. Therefore, the two parties must win a combined vote of 376 lower-house members to be able to jointly name a prime minister. 

Even if they could overcome this first barrier, it would not be easy for them to run the government.

“Don’t forget that senators are to be appointed by the junta and the constitution gives them the authority to screen government policies,” said Stithorn. 

Some political analysts want to see real political reconciliation to go beyond just countering the junta. It would be pity if the two parties just made a short-term political alliance in order to fight the junta, said Nichan Singhaputtgun, a specialist on peace engineering. 

If so it would be similar to the situation in Malaysia, where the former rivals Mahathir Mohamad, a former prime minister, and Anwar Ibrahim, a former deputy prime minister, have joined forces to counter the dominance of the ruling Umno party led by prime minister Najib Razak, said Nichan. 

He explained that a change in the opposing political stance between the Pheu Thai and Democrat parties would be a starting point for genuine political reconciliation. 

“If they could co-operate, it would lead to real political reform and move the country forward, transforming conflict to progressive democracy, transforming from negative conflict to positive conflict,” said Nichan. 

He said that the two parties should not only aim to form a coalition government but should also find common ground and reserve their differences. The most important thing was “whether they could co-exist and work together”, he emphasised. 

“Reconciliation means we can live together even though conflict remains. We can still exchange different ideas based on logic and stay above the emotion,” said Nichan. 

Therefore, a political alliance between the two large parties should not just aim at forming a coalition government against the junta, but should aim to pull the country out of the trap of continual conflicts, he added. 

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