FRIDAY, April 19, 2024

Phumtham denies plan to bring Democrats into coalition govt

Phumtham denies plan to bring Democrats into coalition govt

Deputy Prime Minister Phumtham Wechayachai on Tuesday dismissed rumours that the opposition Democrat Party is poised to join the government coalition, saying the prime minister had not mentioned such a plan to him.

Speculation about the Democrats joining the coalition to bolster its parliamentary strength was still “groundless”, Phumtham said, adding he was confident that the coalition had a stable majority with 314 MPs.

Reporters approached Phumtham for comment after several news websites, including The Nation, cited a source as saying the 25 Democrat MPs would be brought in to boost the coalition’s strength when Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin reshuffles his Cabinet in June.

Political observers have suggested the rumours were intentionally leaked a day before the Democrats join fellow opposition Move Forward MPs to grill the government in a general debate on Wednesday and Thursday.

The offer of Cabinet seats is a common ruse deployed by governments to pre-empt fierce attacks in Parliament, observers pointed out.

“I know nothing about it. Only the prime minister has the power to decide if and when to reshuffle the Cabinet,” said Phumtham, who is also commerce minister.

“I heard about [the rumour] from the media, not from PM Srettha … Right now, there are lots of rumours. Some might come from international sources and some might be just speculation.”

Phumtham said Srettha mentioned nothing about bringing in the Democrats when he met the PM on Monday.

Srettha has repeatedly insisted the coalition is strong and does not need the Democrats.

Asked whether coalition leader Pheu Thai would need to consult its partners before bringing in the Democrats, Phumtham replied:

“We have not started it. Don’t think that far. We haven’t planned it yet. It’s still groundless. Let’s talk about it when it’s clear.”

Democrat Party leader Chalermchai Sri-on has been clear about his desire to join the coalition since being elected as party leader in December at a turbulent general meeting that saw senior Democrats including former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva resign from the party.