22 July 2024

The Move Forward party has been denied everything to which it believes it was entitled, despite being the biggest winner in the May 2023 general election. It has lost its bid for the House speakership. Its leader Pita Limjaroenrat has been denied the premiership, and worse still, instead of being at the core of a coalition government, it is now a mere step away from being consigned to the opposition.

On top of all this, it is now facing a new dilemma. Should it endorse the ongoing efforts by its erstwhile political ally to form a coalition or not?

Pheu Thai now claims to have mustered enough support from various political parties to set up a majority government. The first hurdle it needs to overcome, however, is to have its prime ministerial nominee approved by parliament – something that is far from certain.

Many senators have expressed doubts over whether they would vote for Pheu Thai’s presumptive nominee, real estate tycoon Srettha Thavisin, whose business background is being widely scrutinised.

To circumvent the uncertainty, the best-case scenario for Pheu Thai is to have support for Srettha’s nomination from Move Forward – but without the party becoming part of the coalition.

Some in Pheu Thai describe such a move as a “sacrifice”, which they want Move Forward to make to help break the current political deadlock, but it remains a big question as to whether Move Forward would be willing to take such a step.

Within Move Forward, there seems to be a divergence of views on this. Pol Maj Gen Supisarn Bhakdinarinath, a deputy party leader, has been most vocal in his support for Pheu Thai’s efforts to form a coalition. He has publicly called on Move Forward’s MPs to vote for Pheu Thai’s prime ministerial nominee.

“That’s the only way to put an end to the political dominance of the Senate,” he said, referring to the role of senators in electing the prime minister.

Supisarn played down fears that Pheu Thai might end up coalescing with Palang Pracharath and United Thai Nation, the two parties seen as Move Forward’s arch political rivals.

The stand advocated by Supisarn has, however, received a cool reception from key leaders in Move Forward. An executive meeting of the party on Tuesday did not take up Supisarn’s proposal for discussion.

Wiroj Lakkhanaadisorn, an outspoken MP of Move Forward, insisted that it was premature to decide whether his party should support Pheu Thai’s ongoing political endeavours.

“The Pheu Thai Party must first explain what the public would gain from its union with its new political allies,” Wiroj told Thai PBS in an interview today (Wednesday), referring to political parties in the outgoing Prayut government, which are being courted to join the coalition being formed by Pheu Thai.

He reminded the Pheu Thai party of its election campaign commitment to restore democracy, by not joining hands with political parties associated with the outgoing power clique.

“We urge Pheu Thai to reconsider its political stand and return to the side of democracy,” he said.

Pheu Thai had tried, unsuccessfully, to form a coalition with Move Forward and six other political parties, before breaking away from the alliance – a move seen by critics as a political betrayal of Move Forward.

Many Move Forward MPs, meanwhile, have taken to social media to sound out their supporters as to whether they should vote for the prime ministerial nominee from Pheu Thai.

“If you could decide on Move Forward’s behalf, how would you vote?” Nattacha Boonchaiinsawat, a deputy secretary general of the party, asked in his Facebook post.

Questions along the same line were also posted on social media by other Move Forward MPs. Most of their followers urged the party not to support Pheu Thai’s nominee.

In a sign that Pheu Thai may, after all, still badly need Move Forward to realise its political goal, Phumtham Wechayachai, a Pheu Thai deputy leader, offered what is seen as an olive branch.

He said today that Pheu Thai has been trying to communicate with Move Forward, to seek its support. “We want their votes to help fulfill the people’s mandate,” he said in an interview with reporters, referring to the votes needed to endorse the prime ministerial nomination.

In what is seen as an acknowledgement of the sense of betrayal being felt by many in Move Forward, Phumtham had this to say: “If they were offended by whatever Pheu Thai or I did, I am more than happy to apologise and to seek their forgiveness.”

By Thepchai Yong