Pheu Thai adds six parties to alliance seeking to break political deadlock

Nontarat Phaicharoen and Wilawan Watcharasakwej
Pheu Thai adds six parties to alliance seeking to break political deadlock Pheu Thai leader Cholnan Srikaew (second from right) holds hands with members of his party’s alliance during a press conference at the Thai Parliament building on Aug. 9, 2023.
Handout/Pheu Thai

Pheu Thai on Wednesday announced six more members of its alliance, as the populist party linked to former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra tries to establish a new government without the election-winning Move Forward Party.

The Pheu Thai coalition now has a total of 228 seats in the 500-member house of representatives. It needs at least 375 votes from the combined house and senate to seat a new prime minister. 

“We have more than half of the [lower] house and will persuade all sides to support us,” Pheu Thai deputy leader Poomtham Vejjayachai said at a press conference on Wednesday. “We want this new government to reset politics after more than two decades of polarization.”

Most of the coalition was part of Move Forward’s now disbanded pro-democracy bloc. Thai Sang Thai and the Fair Party have been replaced by Chart Pattana KLA and The Party of Thai Counties in the new grouping.

They will join an alliance that already counts the royalist Bhumjaithai Party, which has 71 seats, as a partner. Pheu Thai placed second behind Move Forward in the May election and has 141 seats.

“Pheu Thai and the other parties expect to ease the political situation and mitigate political polarization between all sides,” party leader Cholnan Srikaew said Wednesday.

Pheu Thai will on Thursday meet with another party, Chart Thai Pattana, said Poomtham. The prime ministerial candidate will remain Pheu Thai’s Srettha Thavisin, a former property tycoon.

No date has been set for the vote on prime minister but it is likely to occur after Aug. 16, when the Constitutional Court is expected to rule on a petition challenging the constitutionality Parliament’s blocking of Move Forward Party leader Pita Limjaroenrat as a candidate. 

Srettha’s success depends on the 250 senators in the upper house, who were appointed by the junta prior to the last election and, under laws put in place at that time, participate in choosing the prime minister.

The conservative-leaning senators vehemently opposed Move Forward’s progressive policies, including its ambitious plan to amend the Lèse-Majesté law that guards against royal defamation.

Pheu Thai has pledged not to touch the Lèse-Majesté law if it forms government, a key condition for the support of Bhumjaithai, which is a member of the outgoing army-backed government.

In May 2014, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s Pheu Thai government was ousted by a military junta led by Gen. Prayuth Chan-o-cha. He has served as prime minister since then and was elected to the office following the 2019 election.

Prayuth recently quit as a member of the United Thai Nation Party. 

If Pheu Thai can win over enough senators, analysts say the party can bring Yingluck’s brother Thaksin home and perhaps restore its place as Thailand’s pre-imminent party outside the pro-military and royalist elite.

Thaksin’s daughter, Paetongtarn, announced last month that her father was expected to return to Thailand on Aug. 10 after 15 years in self-imposed exile, though the 74-year-old billionaire has delayed his homecoming.

Thaksin was ousted in a 2006 military coup and fled Thailand in 2008 to escape a prison term for several different charges, including corruption and tax evasion.


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