Pheu Thai leader confident of landslide victory, making senators’ vote in PM election 'inconsequential'
Pheu Thai Party leader Cholnan Srikaew on Thursday expressed confidence that his party would sweep up to 310 out of 500 House seats and be able to neutralise votes from senators when the next prime minister is elected.
Cholnan was speaking to the general assembly of the party at the head office. The assembly was held to approve some new party regulations to be in accordance with the new political party and election law, to appoint new members to the election candidates selection committee, to deliberate on the 2023 budget and appoint a new licensed budget auditor.
The meeting did not deliberate on the party’s prime minister candidates, which is expected to include Paetongtarn Shinawatra, head of the Pheu Thai Family project, and her adviser, property tycoon Srettha Thavisin.
Before the caucus took up the meeting agenda, Cholnan made a speech to boost the morale of party members, saying the party would achieve a landslide victory, winning at least 310 House seats for a clear mandate to run the country.
With 310 MPs and some votes from other partners, Pheu Thai would not have to depend on votes from 250 senators, Cholnan said.
Political observers see sense in Cholnan’s bold announcement, as some of the conditions initially set in the 2017 Constitution have been removed or will soon expire.
One of the provisions seen as designed to help former coup leader General Prayut Chan-o-cha stay in power is to allow senators to join MPs in electing the prime minister after a general election. But this clause will expire in 2025.
As a result, the upcoming election may be the last time senators could take part in electing the prime minister.
Moreover, the number of senators will drop from 250 to 200 after the current Senate's tenure expires in 2024.
After the 2019 election, the voting powers of 250 senators made it hard for the Pheu Thai, which came out on top in terms of MPs, to win power. Pheu Thai had to make way for a coalition led by Prayut’s Palang Pracharath Party.
Another key factor — the one-ballot electoral system — which was aimed at reducing the number of seats a party could win in the lower House, has been amended to a two-ballot system. The one-ballot system used in the 2019 election allowed up to 26 parties to share House seats and Prayut managed to form a coalition with 19 partners.
But the new electoral system reduces the number of party-list House seats to 100 and uses the number to calculate the base score for distributing the seats, thus making it hard for small parties to win even a single party-list MP seat.
Political gurus noted that Paetongtarn, the youngest daughter of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, has been found in several opinion surveys to be the favourite prime minister candidate.
In his speech on Thursday, Cholnan said the “Prayut regime” must be eliminated from Thailand’s politics.
“So, all Pheu Thai members must join hands to help the party reach the second milestone of winning at least 310 House seats,” Cholnan said.
He said Pheu Thai general members nationwide would have to mark ballots for both Pheu Thai candidates and for the popular vote or party-list ballot.
“Two ballots must be marked for Pheu Thai to secure a landslide victory. Opinion surveys show that our red colour has spread throughout the country,” Cholnan said. Pheu Thai uses the red as its symbolic colour like the red-shirt movement, which has been the grassroots support base of the party.
After he finished his speech, Cholnan asked all party members to stand up to flash their right fist as a show of confidence that the party would win a landslide victory.
Speaking to reporters after the party’s caucus, Paetongtarn reiterated that Pheu Thai aimed to sweep House seats so that it would become a stable government based on votes from the people without having to depend on votes from senators.
Paetongtarn said it would be too soon to say whether her party would form a coalition with Palang Pracharath, which is led by Deputy Prime Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan.
The PPRP has apparently held out an olive branch to Pheu Thai. Prawit’s aide, Thammanat Prompao, even said that the PPRP was ready to join the Pheu Thai coalition.
Paetongtarn said Pheu Thai would work with parties that shared the same ideology of democracy.
She said Pheu Thai needed Srettha’s help because the party’s goal of winning 310 MPs was a very tall order.
Srettha said he would devote his time to the election campaign. He said Cholnan’s speech had boosted his morale and he now has Pheu Thai politicians and Nattawut Saikua, director of the Pheu Thai Family project, as his political tutors.