DPM Prawit claims Prayut may be able to stay on as Thai PM for 2 more years
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha may be able to remain in office for two more years, if the Constitutional Court rules that his 8-year term does not come to an end by August 24th, as posited by opposition parties and anti-Prayut political groups, said Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan yesterday (Tuesday).
Prayut, who came into power when he led the May 2014 coup, as the head of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), became prime minister representing the military regime on August 24th of the same year. He was voted for by the bicameral Parliament of elected MPs and junta-appointed senators, despite not having stood in the 2019 general election himself.
His critics count his premiership from August 24th, 2014, but many of his supporters only count his term from June 2019, when he received royal endorsement and was sworn into office, or even from 2017, when the junta-drafted constitution, which was approved in a plebiscite, came into force.
It is believed that the two years referred to by Prawit, who is also leader of the core government party, Palang Pracharath, which nominated Gen Prayut as its prime ministerial candidate, would mean that Prayut’s premiership had started when the Constitution B.E. 2560 (2017 AD) came into force and that his term in office will continue through 2025, offering the opportunity for him to stage a comeback after the next election.
When pressed by reporters on who would ultimately replace Prime Minister Prayut and whether that person will be ready to fill the void, Prawit said that he is not thinking about that at this stage, as he insists, despite the court not having ruled yet that Prayut can stay on for the next two years.
The opposition parties plan to submit a signed petition to House Speaker Chuan Leekpai on August 17th, seeking a Constitutional Court ruling on when the prime minister’s term in office will come to an end.
In the petition, the opposition demands that the court stop Prayut from functioning as prime minister, if it rules that his premiership expires on August 24th, and that an acting prime minister be elected by parliament to fill the vacancy.
Last week, political activist Srisuwan Janya submitted petitions to the Election Commission and the Office of the Ombudsman to ask the Constitutional Court to rule on the same question.
He insists Prayut’s premiership started when he assumed office on August 24th, 2014, after he staged a coup to topple the caretaker government of then Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra on May 22nd, 2014, adding that his term should, therefore, come to an end on the night of August 23rd.
Staying on after August 24th will be a violation of Section 158 of the constitution, he said.
Section 158 of the 2017 Constitution states, in essence, that the prime minister cannot hold office for more than eight years in total, consecutive terms or not, but this shall not include the period during which the prime minister carries out duties after vacating office.