Democrats, small parties play smug kingmakers
The official announcement of election results has refuelled the heated race between the Palang Pracharat and Pheu Thai alliances to form a post-election government. With the rival camps fighting for every precious seat in order to gain a House of Representatives majority, no matter how slim, potential kingmakers are numerous.
The announcement may have given the Palang Pracharat alliance a slight advantage, but what it needs now is the same as what it needed before — a Democrat commitment to join the coalition. That is far from confirmed.
Also, the alliance does not look solid on another aspect this week, with reports claiming that Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan’s image could affect the fragile unity. News reports, quoting Palang Pracharat sources, claimed that some of the party’s allies or prospective partners do not want Prawit to be anywhere near the new Cabinet.
In fact, the reports claimed Prayut was the most the allies (or potential allies) can take as a remnant of the 2014 coup and military rule of the past few years. They wouldn’t accept any other personality whose presence in the Cabinet would indicate extension of military influences in politics.
No ally name was given regarding the Prawit condition, but under the present circumstances, one or two allies making that demand is enough to rattle Palang Pracharat, who needs every vote available in order to form a government. As of Friday afternoon, the condition sounded “very Democrat”.
Thailand’s oldest party will elect a new leader and executives in a few days, immediately after which they will decide what to do regarding its parliamentary job. Young-blood Democrats want to play a “constructive” role in the opposition bloc, regardless of who is the prime minister. But a lot of party core members want to join a Palang Pracharat government. The party’s old leadership, including former leader Abhisit Vejjajiva and his mentor Chuan Leekpai, meanwhile, has been critical of the military but is also well aware that not supporting Palang Pracharat could bring another rival back to power.
The advantage of the Abhisit faction is that it is apparently backed by the young blood. Its disadvantage is that its anti-Palang Pracharat stand is apparently the main reason for the party’s humiliating election loss, which subsequently forced Abhisit to resign as party leader.
Pheu Thai, meanwhile, seems to have lost advantages after the official announcement of election results, which made the number of tiny parties, having one MP each, a whopping 11. That is 11 precious votes that can be in favour of Palang Pracharat. Pheu Thai was angry at the way the Election Commission calculated how parties got party list MPs, but the anger also served to confirm that the Pheu Thai-led alliance is now in a disadvantageous position.
The small parties and the Democrats, however, can play hard to get now. They can make outrageous demands in exchange for their support for the big fish wanting to form a government. Jockeying and bargaining for Cabinet positions will intensify from now on. Will this lead to old-fashioned politics, in which certain key Cabinet posts had to be given to unqualified people? The answer should come soon enough. – By ThaiPBS World’s Political Desk