Thursday, August 22, 2019

Pheu Thai says coalition intact but remains wary of defections by MPs to rival camp

Apr 21. 2019

A voter casts his ballot at Polling Station No 32 in Bangkok’s Constituency 13, where a poll rerun was held yesterday.
A voter casts his ballot at Polling Station No 32 in Bangkok’s Constituency 13, where a poll rerun was held yesterday.
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By The Nation

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THE SEVEN political parties that have come together to form the next government remain “strongly united” although defections of its MPs to the rival coalition are likely, a key figure in the Pheu Thai Party said yesterday.

Phumtham Wechayachai, Pheu Thai’s secretary-general, said that the seven parties in the Pheu Thai-led coalition remain firm in their resolution to prevent the junta from returning to power.

He said that if the rival coalition wanted to form the next government without a majority in the House of Representatives, it would need to “buy the support” of some MPs from his group of political parties.

“That method is not dignified. It will cause harm to our democracy. People are watching. Any side that opts for such a method will be punished by the people. And their real intention of staying on in power will be clear to the public,” Phumtham said.

The politician said Pheu Thai had won the most number of House seats in the March 24 general election and should have the first right to form the next government. He added, however, that there was an attempt by the party with the second most House seats to form a coalition government by arguing that it had won the most popular votes in the election.

He did not name the party in question but was obviously referring to the pro-junta Phalang Pracharat.

Phumtham called on the Election Commission (EC) to have the courage to announce the election results “fairly and with good reasons”. He warned that any attempt to please the powers-that-be would result in bad consequences for the EC.

“The EC must come up with clear election results. In fact, whichever side is able to form the next coalition, the government will lack stability,” he said, referring to the slim majority in the Lower House.

Phumtham said Pheu Thai has decided not to change its current leader, Wirode Pao-in, as it was focusing on forming the next government. “Focusing on changing the party leader would mean we had given up” our attempt to form the next administration, he added.

‘Things will be clear after May 9’

Pheu Thai convened its general meeting at party headquarters yesterday. Among the participants were senior leaders, key figures, elected MPs and branch representatives.

At the meeting, newly elected Pheu Thai MPs who had failed to sign a party “pledge” to prevent the junta from staying on in power were asked to join.

Meanwhile, Phalang Pracharat remained confident yesterday it would be able to form the next coalition government, one of its spokesmen, Buddhipong Punnakanta, said. Buddhipong said things would become clear after the EC announced the final election results, around May 9.

“Our allies who will form the government with Phalang Pracharat have shown their commitment to an extent, as has been reported in the media. But things will become clear after May 9,” he said.

Regarding New Economy Party leader Mingkwan Sangsuwan’s recent announcement that his party would not join a Phalang Pracharat-led coalition, Buddhipong said yesterday that his party respected that decision.

New voting was held at six polling stations in five provinces yesterday.

The Election Commission (EC) called for the poll rerun after inconsistencies were found at the polling stations in the March 24 general election. The number of ballots cast differed from that of eligible voters registered to vote at those polling stations. 

Of the 92,320 polling stations in last month’s election, inconsistencies at only six were considered “acceptable mistakes”, election commissioner Lertwiroj Kowattana said yesterday. He was inspecting the voting at polling station number 32 in Bangkok’s Constituency 13, where a new vote was called. Accompanying him were EC secretary-general Jarungvith Phumma and Bangkok election director Witchuda Mekhanuwong.

In addition to the Bangkok polling station, vote reruns were also held at two polling stations in Lampang province, and at one polling station each in Phitsanulok, Yasothon and Phetchabun provinces. 

The number of eligible voters at the polling stations involved ranged from a few hundred to less than 1,400. The EC received more than 300 complaints of suspected fraud in the general election but most of them did not warrant new voting, Lertwiroj said yesterday.

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