The Move Forward Party’s (MFP) attempt to form a governing coalition may not be easy after several senators made it clear they will not support their candidate for prime minister.
Under the constitution, the 250 senators appointed by the now-defunct National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) can join parliamentarians in electing a prime minister in parliament.
It will be the second and last time they will co-elect a prime minister after Sunday’s election. In the 2019 elections, they joined MPs in voting for General Prayut Chan-o-cha to become Prime Minister.
MFP leader Pita Limjaroenrat announced a plan on Monday to form a coalition government made up of five former opposition parties and one new party, with a total of 310 deputies and himself as prime minister.
Pita made the announcement after the Electoral Commission declared the MFP the winner of the most seats in Sunday’s general election with 152 deputies, 113 from constituencies and 39 from the party list.
He said that he took the victory as a mandate from the people for his party to be the leader in the formation of the next government.
Pita said he called Pheu Thai’s prime ministerial candidate Paetongtarn Shinawatra and congratulated her on her determination during the campaign and invited her party to join a coalition.
Ms. Paetongtarn, in turn, congratulated Move Forward and said that the media should be informed that the two sides had spoken in the interest of transparency, she added.
The other three former opposition parties he had contacted were Thai Sang Thai, Prachachart and Seri Ruam Thai. The five parties won a combined 309 seats in the MP.
Pita said he was contacting Pen Tham, or the Fair Party, which had an MP on the party list, to join the coalition. He said it was a party that had worked hard for peace in the three southernmost border provinces.
The six parties would have 310 deputies in total, enough to be a majority government, he said.
“We would form a government as soon as possible so that there is not a political and economic vacuum. Rest assured, Move Forward will be fast and meticulous,” Pita said.
Asked if Move Forward was concerned that senators would not vote for the coalition to meet the required 376 endorsement votes for the prime minister, Pita said he was not concerned because the party has a mandate from the people.
However, Senator Jadet Insawang said that upon taking office as senator, he swore an oath to protect the constitutional monarchy.
“The MFP and Pita once announced that they would remove Section 112 (the lèse majesté law), which will affect the monarchy. This is unacceptable,” he said.
“If the MFP gathers the support of 376 deputies (more than half of the 750 members of the lower and upper houses), there is no need to seek the support of the Senate for (a candidate for prime minister). But if they only get 309, they will have to.
“For me, if Pita, the MFP’s prime ministerial candidate, is nominated for a vote in parliament, he won’t get my vote,” Jadet said.
Senator Kittisak Rattanawaraha said senators would look at the qualifications of any nominated prime ministerial candidate for a vote in parliament.
“One of the qualifications is that the candidate must be loyal to the country, the religion and the monarchy,” he said.
He went on to say that it is premature to comment on the composition of a coalition government.
“Senators only consider what the country will be like, whether problems, conflicts or protests will follow if they vote for someone to become prime minister. We have to look at several dimensions.
“The senators will make a decision in the best interest of the country,” Kittisak said.
Another senator, Chalermchai Fuengkorn, said whichever party wins the most seats must muster the support of 376 lawmakers to be able to nominate a candidate for prime minister and avoid the Senate.
“If they can also bring other parties, like Bhumjaithai, into their coalition, the Senate will lose its meaning,” he said. “But if they can’t muster enough support and some senators abstain from voting, their attempt to build a coalition will fail.”
Laddawan Tantivitayapitak, Secretary General of the Open Forum for Democracy Foundation (P-Net), called on all parties to respect the people’s mandate in the elections and for the Senate to comply with the result of a majority vote of the House of Representatives. to nominate a candidate for prime minister.