Thai parliament to hold prime minister vote on July 13

Nontarat Phaicharoen
Thai parliament to hold prime minister vote on July 13 Move Forward Party leader Pita Limjaroenrat meets supporters outside the parliament in Bangkok after voting for house speaker, July 4, 2023.
[Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters]

Thailand’s parliament will vote for the next prime minister on July 13, the house speaker announced Wednesday, about the next step in government formation following the May national election that saw a sweep by pro-democracy parties.

Speaker Wan Muhamad Noor Matha announced the date after consulting with Pornpetch Wichitcholchai, the senate president, and other parliamentary officials.

Top prime ministerial candidate, Move Forward Party’s Pita Limjaroenrat, who heads an eight-party alliance comprising 312 MPs, needs significant support from pro-royal, conservative senators in the 750-seat bicameral legislature to be voted prime minister.

“The MPs, who have an essential role in legislation and budget consideration, have collectively secured 312 votes to form a government,” Wan Noor told the media, referring to the MPs in Pita’s alliance, which had 313 lawmakers before one resigned.

“These numbers alone do not guarantee a win for the prime ministerial vote, where at least 376 votes are required. This leaves a deficit of 64 votes.”

Wan Noor said that if a candidate doesn’t secure the requisite 376 votes, another voting session will be scheduled. 

“If the first day does not yield a winner, the meeting will adjourn, and the prime ministerial vote will be rescheduled for the next session,” Wan Noor said.

Rules enshrined in a junta-drafted constitution mean Pita’s alliance needs support from the upper house, which is stacked with pro-royal senators, many of whom oppose his plans to amend the draconian law on defaming the monarchy.

These senators were appointed by the pro-royal military that toppled an elected government in a coup nine years ago and has ruled the country in some form or another since then. 

Pita’s Move Forward has said it plans to rewrite the constitution, end business monopolies and modernize the justice system and security forces – proposed changes that have antagonized the traditional ruling elite.

Move Forward has in recent days affirmed that its leader is close to securing the requisite number of senators’ votes.

But Sen. Seree Suwanphanont will not be voting for Pita, 42, a Harvard-educated former executive at Southeast Asian superapp Grab. That’s because, Seree said, Move Forward wants to amend Article 112 – the Lèse-Majesté law– of the criminal code.

Human rights groups allege the outgoing government has used Article 112 to silence dissent. The law carries jail terms of up to 15 years for actions or speech deemed as insulting, defamatory or threatening to the monarchy.

“Pita should clarify his stance,” Seree said.

“If he refuses to back down on amending Article 112, then I will not back down either.”

In the event that Pita doesn’t get enough votes, Move Forward could try to persuade the Bhumjaithai Party, which won 71 seats, to join its coalition, said Nuttakorn Vititanon, a political science professor at Chiang Mai University.

“Pheu Thai would likely not dare to go against the tide as it could affect the party’s popularity, and they would subsequently face pressure from the public,” Nuttakorn told BenarNews.

He was referring to speculation that Pheu Thai, one of the parties in the eight-party alliance, could put forward one of its own members for the PM post.

Pheu Thai, which won the second-highest number of seats after Move Forward, previously said it does not support wholesale reform of the anti-royal defamation law, only its discussion in parliament.

Bhumjaithai, a part of the current ruling bloc, has said it would not support a prime minister who seeks to amend Article 112.

Still, all may not be lost for Pita because he could find support from some senators “especially those from the business sector,” Nuttakorn said.

“Therefore, there is still a chance for Pita,” he said.

“I believe the coalition parties will push as hard as they can.”

Kunnawut Boonreak in Chiang Mai, Thailand, contributed to this report.


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