As Thailand gears up for an election next February, there are increasing signs that the ruling junta is preparing to push for General Prayut Chan-o-cha to continue serving as prime minister.
Thailand’s military-drafted Constitution, signed by King Maha Vajiralongkorn last year, allows political parties to nominate an unelected leader from outside Parliament to become the head of government. The candidate would then need a majority of support in the military-appointed Senate and elected Lower House.
Several Cabinet members, including Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak and Industry Minister Uttama Savanayana, have announced their support for General Prayut to serve another term.
Several new political parties have also vowed to back Gen Prayut, though it remains to be seen how well they would fare in the election in the face of heavyweights like the Shinawatra-backed Puea Thai and the Democrats. Both have announced they intend to nominate candidates for prime minister from within their parties.
Neophyte politician Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, who is heir to auto-parts maker giant Thai Summit Group, has also vowed that his newly-registered party Future Forward will reject a so-called “outsider prime minister” on the grounds that it is a non-democratic means to power.
The junta will have a say in the appointment of the Senate’s 250 members, who will serve for five years. The kingdom now has no Senate and has been operating with an interim assembly after the last coup in 2014.
Thammasat University law lecturer Parinya Thewanarumitkul said for Gen Prayut’s second term to become a reality, he must win support beyond the Upper House.
“If an outsider PM can secure 250 votes from the senators, he would only need 126 more from the Lower House to gain an absolute majority, or 376 votes out of the 750-seat parliament,” said Dr Parinya.
The country’s next leader will also need more allies in the 500-seat Lower House, which passes laws, to push through key legislation.
Independent scholar Sirote Klampaiboon said that by allowing parties to nominate an “outsider PM”, the military government is aiming to “overturn the negative connotation” by emphasising that even though the prime minister is not a Member of Parliament, he will have full Parliament support.
The term “outsider PM” has been associated with abuse of power in Thailand. One example is when General Suchinda Kraprayoon became prime minister in 1992 after staging a coup the year before, according to Mr Sirote.
Continue reading: The Straits Times