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Thanathorn aims for PM, might be lucky to remain MP

May 16. 2019
Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit Future Forward Party leader
Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit Future Forward Party leader
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With rival camps’ potential allies wavering over next step, EC approaches court to disqualify Future Forward leader.

FUTURE Forward Party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit announced yesterday he was ready to serve as prime minister, even as the Election Commission (EC) was asking the Constitutional Court to disqualify him as a member of Parliament.

  The EC cited his alleged ownership of stakes in a media company. Being found guilty of the charge would not only block his political ambitions but also send him to jail for 10 years.

Unfazed by the challenge, Thanathorn declared that his party was ready to take the lead in forming the next government. “I am ready to be the next prime minister in order to stop the continuity of power of the National Council for Peace and Order,” Thanathorn told reporters, referring to the military junta.

He said the March 24 election was tilted to favour the pro-junta Phalang Pacharat Party and there was no other way to stop the military from clinging to political power. General Prayut Chan-o-cha has strong support to continue as premier, he said.

Thanathorn said Future Forward would compete with the pro-junta camp in mustering support in Parliament to form the government. 

The party has a signed an agreement with the Pheu Thai, Puea Chart, Prachachat, Seri Ruam Thai, Phalang Puang Chon and New Economics parties to do so. But, by the EC’s calculations of party-list MPs, the rival camp led by Phalang Pracharat, buttressed by a string of “micro-parties”, commands 255 seats in the Lower House, enough for a working minority government. 

The Constitution requires more than half of the combined 750 seats in both houses to install a prime minister. The junta has handpicked loyalists to occupy Senate seats, who would likely block the anti-junta coalition from forming a government. 

Pheu Thai, which won the most seats in the Lower House, yesterday summoned key members such as Khunying Sudarat Keyuraphan and Phumtham Wechayachai to discuss strategies for countering Phalang Pracharat. The preferred solution, according to a party source, was to bring the Democrat and Bhumjaithai parties, which have a combined 103 seats, into the anti-junta camp. 

The two could decide between them who gets the premier’s post, the source said. 

Bhumjaithai leader Anutin Charnvirakul said yesterday his party would make a decision on Monday about which camp to join. “There’s a lot of strong pressure to decide because the political community is so heavily focused on the pro- versus anti-democracy camps,” he said. “The people made their decision in the election, so there should be no division anymore.”

The Democrats, who elected Jurin Laksanawisit the party’s new leader on Wednesday, are also going to wait until next week to decide which camp to join. 

Thanathorn’s defiant declaration came hours after the EC asked the charter court to revoke his MP status. A month after the election, the EC accused the billionaire of violating electoral laws by owning or holding 675,000 shares in V-Luck Media Co when he registered as a party-list candidate for the election. 

Both the Constitution and the MPs Election Act prohibit MP candidates from holding shares in media companies. If found guilty, Thanathorn would be disqualified as an MP and could be jailed for one to 10 years, as well as being banned from elections for 20 years.

Thanathorn, who became a member of Parliament when his party won a surprise 80 seats in the House, insists he has done nothing wrong, as proven in the documentation and other evidence he has submitted to the authorities. 

“This is a last-ditch effort by the junta to block Future Forward, but I believe the court will be just,” he told reporters.

Thanathorn had earlier said the shares he owned were transferred to his mother long before he signed up as a candidate.

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