By The Nation
THE PRO-JUNTA Phalang Pracharat Party claimed to have successfully cobbled together a coalition that could form a new government with the participation of the Democrat and Bhumjaithai parties, a source from the major coalition partner said yesterday.
Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha will again head the post-election administration, with many members of his current post-coup Cabinet joining him, including General Prawit Wongsuwan, General Anupong Paochinda, Somkid Jatusripitak and Wissanu Krea-ngam, according to the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
However, it remained unclear if Prayut would also double as defence minister or allow Prawit to assume the post again in addition to the deputy PM’s post.
Phalang Pracharath will get at least 16 Cabinet seats and the Democrats and Bhumjaithai would get seven each, the source said, adding that these numbers were based on an agreed quota of one Cabinet seat for seven MPs.
In the March 24 general election, Phalang Pracharath won 115 MP seats, the Democrats 52 and Bhumjaithai 51.
Among the key Cabinet portfolios expected to go to Phalang Pracharath are Finance, Transport, Commerce, Education, Foreign Affairs, Tourism and Sports, and Natural Resources and the Environment.
The Democrats are expected to get the Labour and Justice portfolios besides the minister of Social Development and Human Security as well as minister of University Affairs, Science Research and Innovations – a new ministry created by the current government.
According to the source, the Democrat Party will also get deputy ministers for Interior, Finance and Education.
Bhumjaithai has successfully bargained for the seats of Public Health minister and Digital Economy and Society minister, in addition to deputy minister seats in the ministries of Transport, Interior and Commerce, the source said.
The party’s leader, Anutin Charnvirakul, is expected to become the new Public Health minister to push for its policy platform of legalising marijuana.
Meanwhile, political parties in the “democratic camp” still have not given up hope of forming a new coalition government despite claims by the rival pro-junta camp of their success, Pheu Thai secretary-general Phumtham Wechayachai said yesterday.
The confidence was expressed as both Pheu Thai and Phalang Pracharat were heavily lobbying for support from smaller parties.
Phumtham said all the parties in the group, that he called the “democratic camp”, remained firm about going ahead with forming a new government.
He said his coalition had the main goal of “preventing the country reaching a dead end and stopping the continuation of power” by the ruling National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) through General Prayut Chan-o-cha, who is the sole prime ministerial candidate for Phalang Pracharath.
“The parties in the democratic camp still have not stopped today. For us, the journey is not completed,” Phumtham said in his Facebook post.
“All the parties [in the camp] are still determined; we have exchanged views with all sides and we see hopes from the dialogue. I can tell you that there is progress in our work,” he said.
Rivals not convinced
Phumtham said the rival camp’s claim of near success in putting together a coalition government was merely a psychological move aimed at boosting their allies’ confidence in an attempt to gain political power and continue with their rule.
He voiced confidence that the Pheu Thai-led alliance would eventually win when the House of Representatives votes on Saturday.
“We are hopeful of a victory in the House of Representatives. We are confident that we can bring about better changes,” he said.
The new House of Representatives is scheduled to convene its first meeting on Saturday to elect the speaker and two deputy speakers.
General Prayut, who led the 2014 military coup to overthrow a Pheu Thai-led government, is the current prime minister and also heads the NCPO.
Both Pheu Thai and Phalang Pracharat have claimed legitimacy to form the next government, with the former winning the most House seats and the latter gaining the most popular votes in the March 24 general election.
Varawut Silpa-archa, a key figure in the Chart Thai Pattana Party, said yesterday that his party had been approached by both Pheu Thai and Phalang Pracharat to join their rival coalitions. “But there has been no agreement whatsoever,” Varawut said, adding that Chart Thai politicians would meet on Thursday to discuss “which way to head” regarding the matter.
Meanwhile, the Democrat Party, which is also being courted by both Pheu Thai and Phalang Pracharath, maintained yesterday that it would base its decision “mainly for the benefit of the people and the country”, spokesman Ramet Ratanachaweng said.
He said no meeting has been scheduled between the party’s newly elected MPs and new executive board headed by party leader Jurin Laksanavisit to decide about joining a new government.
“The public should trust the Democrat Party under the leadership of Jurin Laksanavisit. We will basically do whatever is needed to benefit the people and the country,” the spokesman said.
In a related development, the Bhumjaithai Party – which is also being wooed by rival camps to join their coalitions – holds an orientation meeting for its new MPs at a hotel in Buri Ram province today.
At the meeting, to be chaired by Bhumjaithai leader Anutin Charnvirakul, the party’s executives and MPs are expected to determine its stance as to which camp it would join to form a next government.