23 May 2024

The tight and ferocious race to seize political control, the foreseen instability of the next administration, no matter who leads it, and the need to achieve some kind of harmony after the royal coronation have kept alive speculation that a national government may emerge in the next few weeks.

A traditional, winner-takes-all, post-election government can face all kinds of trouble. In an unlikely event that the Pheu Thai camp manages to rule, it will still face major legal uncertainties. There are legal cases and possible cases that can badly disrupt such a government’s work, namely the reopening of the old wounds of the rice-pledging controversy, charges related to the contentious prime ministerial candidacy of Princess Ubolratana, which was finally doomed, and action against the Future Forward Party and its leader.

If the pro-Prayut Palang Pracharat Party leads the new government, chances are that government will be a “minority” coalition, exposed to formidable attacks by the opposition whenever the Senate cannot help. In addition, street protests can become regular, possibly massive, and distract the new administration from what it is supposed to do, which is “serving the public”.

In fact, a Pheu Thai-led coalition won’t be able to function properly, either. Both sides won’t be able to serve the public with a lot of problems on their hands, analysts say. Pressing issues such as national education and 5G development can get heavily politicised or overlooked due to a divide that will certainly get worse after a traditional government is formed.

On paper, when Parliament elects the next prime minister, incumbent Prayut Chan-o-cha should be sitting pretty because the majority, if not all, of the 250-strong Senate will vote for him. But the road onwards will be rocky, unless he somehow manages to get Pheu Thai into his coalition.

A government consisting primarily of the Palang Pracharat, Pheu Thai, Democrat and Bhumjaithai parties can take away much of the said trouble. Analysts see this as a “semi” national government because they cannot figure out how Future Forward can be fit into it. In addition to charges regarding its political ideology, the party has repeatedly and unequivocally renounced Palang Pracharat.

Take away Future Forward, there is another problem. The possibility of Pheu Thai accepting Prayut is very low, if not zero. Analysts, therefore, are predicting that if a “semi” national government is to be formed, it will have to be led by a non-divisive figure, someone not representing any of the Palang Pracharat, Pheu Thai and Democrat parties.

So far, the game panning out before everyone’s eyes is still based on the winner-takes-all concept. Many variables have been perceived. The Democrats, crushed in the general election on March 24, can side with Palang Pracharat and get it a slim majority, or they will choose to be in the opposition and thus hand the Pheu Thai camp a boost. Fears of party dissolution might yet prompt Puea Chat, commanding unofficially just 5 party list MPs, to betray its bosses and play a kingmaker instead.

A national government, semi or else, may not happen. But the speculation is very real, driven by anxiety and fears, along with the increasing realization that the conventional game could only inflame the crisis, which has been near the boiling point since March 24.