Ruling party sheds more MPs, dimming Prawit’s chance of becoming PM
Palang Pracharath Party leader General Prawit Wongsuwan’s ambition to become the next prime minister is seen as unlikely after many MPs have bolted from the ruling party to join several parties.
About half of his party’s MPs have jumped ship, with the exodus accelerating after Prawit was selected as its candidate for premier in late January.
Two of the three leaders of the ruling party’s Sam Mitr faction are expected to join the largest opposition party, Pheu Thai, on Friday when it will announce its full list of 400 constituency candidates. They are Justice Minister Somsak Thepsutin and Industry Minister Suriya Jungrungreangkit.
Several MPs from their “Three Friends” faction are expected to join them, including Chon Buri MP Sorawut Nuangchamnong and Sukhothai MP Phansiri Kulnartsiri.
Political observers say the ruling party is disintegrating because it is merely a party formed to unite disparate factions after the 2014 coup led by Prawit and Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha. Conflicts among factions and the inability of faction leaders to satisfy their members are also blamed for the mass defections.
The coup ousted the Pheu Thai government led by Yingluck Shinawatra.
In the 2019 election, the PPRP won 121 out of 500 seats mainly because generals Prawit and Prayut convinced enough high-profile politicians to join the party, including the three leaders of the Sam Mirt faction.
PM’s Office Minister Anucha Nakasai, the third leader of the Sam Mitr faction, followed Prayut when he left the party last November to become a candidate for prime minister of the new United Thai Nation Party (UTNP).
The group of MPs that followed Prayut to the UTNP is loyal to Labour Minister Suchart Chomklin. They include former Chonburi MP Ronnathep Anuwat, former Chachoengsao MP Chaiwat Paopiemsup, and former Rayong MP Sompong Sophon. (All of them lost their parliamentary status when they switched parties.)
A group of PPRP MPs loyal to veteran politician Himalai Phiewphan also joined the UTNP. They include former Nakhon Sawan MP Sanya Nilsuwan and former Phichit MP Surachart Sribussakorn.
Many PPRP MPs have defected to the Bhumjaithai Party of Deputy Prime Minister and Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul, reports say. They include former party-list MP Supol Fongngam, former party-list MP Ekkart Changlao and former Khon Kaen MP Watana Changlao.
All of the ruling party’s MPs for Kanchanaburi province defected to the Bhumjaithai Party. They are Thammawit Phopipit, Attapol Phopipit, Somchai Wisanuwong, and Somkiart Wonpian.
Several PPRP MPs defected to the Democrat Party, including former party-list MP Watanya Bunnag and former Nakhon Ratchasima MP Somsak Phankasem.
Several former PPRP MPs have already joined Pheu Thai, including former Bangkok MP Kankanit Haewsanti and former Sukhothai MP Chusak Khirimasthong.
It has been reported that Prawit’s aides are struggling to convince high-profile politicians to join his party but have been unsuccessful so far.