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‘Swing’ bloc holds the key to next govt

May 09. 2019
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By KAS CHANWANPEN
THE NATION

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 Anti junta camp remains optimistic; Bhumjaithai says it is yet to decide

WHILE THE pro-junta camp led by Phalang Pracharat Party appears to have gained the upper hand in the latest MP seat distribution, the rival camp retains a glimmer of hope as long as the “swing” parties remain undecided.

The anti-junta bloc now looks short of MPs required to form a government after its seat count fell from 255 to 245 under the Election Commission (EC)’s controversial party-list calculation method. But pro-democracy figures remain optimistic, as they believe not all the seats from the remaining 20 winning parties will necessarily go to Phalang Pracharat.

Pheu Thai Party secretary-general Phumtham Wechayachai yesterday tweeted that the pro-junta camp had only secured 138 seats in the lower house so far against the opposition bloc’s 245 seats. 

The undecided faction comprising Democrat, Bhumjaithai, Chartthaipattana and Chartpattana parties now accounted for 116 MPs, he added.

“It’s the Thai people’s duty to press this faction to make a decision,” the anti-junta politician said. “The country is in your hands. Don’t let anyone destroy it.”

The group Phumtham called the undecided faction, however, is viewed as leaning towards the pro-regime camp.

Horse-trading is reportedly taking place with these parties. The Democrats and Bhumjaithai, for instance, are said to have been offered six spots each in the Cabinet.

Bhumjaithai leader Anutin Charnvirakul dismissed the rumours yesterday, writing on Facebook that there had been neither talks on setting up a government nor negotiations over Cabinet seats.

“Bhumjaithai is listening to the voice of the people,” Anutin wrote.

A Democrat Party source also denied having negotiated with the pro-regime bloc, saying talks could be conducted after next Wednesday when the party chooses its new leader. 

The identity of the Democrats’ new leader is crucial since rival candidates have different stances on the party’s role in government formation. 

Phalang Pracharat leader Uttama Savanayon also admitted yesterday that no agreement had been reached yet over the establishment of the new government. Negotiations were underway, he said. 

Though Uttama expressed confidence his block would form the government, he declined to reveal the number of MPs it could assemble amid reports that Democrat and Bhumjaithai had not been satisfied with posts offered.

Sources said it would not be fair for the two parties to get 12 fringe Cabinet seats while Phalang Pracharat, with only 115 MPs, took all the major and economy-related ministries.

Political analyst Anusorn Unno, dean of the Faculty of Sociology and Anthropology at Thammasat University, told The Nation yesterday that with the dust still not settled from the election results there were still possibilities for the anti-junta camp to beat its rival to form the government.

“It’s at the negotiation stage right now,” he said. “It is unclear how many or which parties will support the |current regime. They only have three parties now with only some 120 MPs.”

While many doubt that Bhumjaithai would join the anti-junta camp, Anusorn reckons anything is possible since party leader Anutin had said the decision had yet to be made.

Another determining factor – the Democrat Party – is seen as unlikely to join its old foe Pheu Thai in the anti-junta camp. But Anusorn said it won’t be easy for Phalang Pracharat to cut a deal with the Democrats.

“We can see that the Democrats also appear upset with the MP calculation method,” he said. “So, it is unclear whether the party will join Phalang Pracharat.” 

With the government formation still shrouded in uncertainty, Anusorn also expressed concern over undemocratic alternatives such as a so-called national unity government or neutral prime minister. “This could lead the [the country] to stagnate again.”

The best way forward, Anusorn suggested, is for the pro-democracy camp to stand by its principles and fight the perceived unfair allocation of MP seats that puts them at a disadvantage.

“They should not let this opportunity slip and allow Phalang Pracharat to form a government in the hope that it will soon collapse and a new election will be held,” Anusorn said. “That would be like letting them violate [democratic] principles from the first.”

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