Although Thailand’s general election resulted in a heroic victory for the Move Forward Party, their bid to form a coalition government may not be plain sailing after certain members of the upper house (Senate) made it clear that they will not vote for the party’s prime ministerial candidate as the country’s 30th premier.
Under the current constitution, the 250 senators appointed by the now-defunct National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) are allowed to join MPs in electing a prime minister in Parliament.
This will be the second and likely last time they will participate in the selection of the prime minister with the lower house. In the 2019 election, senators joined MPs in voting for General Prayut Chan-o-cha to become prime minister.
The Move Forward Party (MFP) now has a combined 310 MPs comprised of five former opposition parties and one new party. Without the support of the 250-member senate, they will need to gather as many as 375 MPs or half of the entire Parliament (750) to bypass the Senate to successfully nominate Pita Limjaroenrat, leader and sole PM candidate for Move Forward, as prime minister.
“A prime minister must demonstrate loyalty to the royal institution,” Senator Kittisak Rattanawaraha said in reference to Move Forward’s campaign to amend the controversial lese majeste law. This indicated that he, as a senator, might not vote for Pita or abstain from voting when it’s time to pick a premier.
Some other senators like Pornthip Rojanasunan also made it clear that she would abstain from voting, citing her concerns about the MFP’s intention to amend the lese majeste law. She said the MFP should not meddle with such fragile and contentious issues.
With 310 votes in hand, many analysts said the MFP should request support from the Bhumjai Thai Party, the cannabis proponent and the party that came in third in the election. Bhumjaithai has roughly 70 MPs and could give MFP the majority without needing Senate approval. However, there were no talks between the two factions as of press time, with Anutin Charnvirakul, party leader, saying he would wait for official election results within sixty days before making any decisions.
The two parties also have significant differences, with Bhumjaithai unlikely to support Lese Majeste changes and MFP stating, officially anyways, that they were against marijuana and wanted it relisted as a narcotic, only being used for strict medical reasons.
Whatever the outcome, a countdown to a new era has officially begun.
From now, Thailand will go through the five next steps as follows:
- July 13th
Deadline for the announcement by the Election Commission of the official results of the general election
Following the results, the House of Representatives will select a new speaker.
Parliament will choose a new premier.
- Late August
A new cabinet is formed, and the caretaker government steps down.
The new PM would also need official approval from his Royal Majesty the King although this is usually a formality.