The PHEU THAI Party held its first executive meeting yesterday following the easing of the ban on political activities and resolved to select a new executive board, the MP election committee as well as the party leader on October 28, amid uncertainty surrounding the party.
This would be the first time that the Pheu Thai leader would be chosen based on an internal poll. Prior to the voting day, the nomination process is open to all members. Pheu Thai said members were welcome to propose more than one candidate.
Candidates most likely to lead Pheu Thai in the upcoming election are former health minister Khunying Sudarat Keyuraphan, former PM and Thaksin Shinawatra’s brother-in-law Somchai Wongsawat, and former Pheu Thai deputy leader Panpree Pahitthanukorn.
Pheu Thai secretary-general Phumtham Wechayachai said yesterday that there had been no conclusion yet about who would become the leader. Everyone has an equal chance to become party leader candidate if they are nominated by party members, he said.
Pheu Thai’s selection of leader has usually been criticised for being influenced by fugitive former PM Thaksin Shinawatra.
Phumtham yesterday said there was nothing the party could do about such criticism but insisted the selection followed normal regulations and took into account members’ opinions.
‘Based on merit’
“Only time will tell,” Phumtham said. “But personally, I see politicians, executives, and leaders all set their heart on leading the party to victory in the election. The decision should be made based on merit, compatibility with colleagues, and ability to deliver policies to serve public interest.”
Apart from the uncertainty over its new leader, it has been said that Pheu Thai would rely on a ‘sister party’ – Pheu Tham – to ensure a majority in Parliament.
Previously, Pheu Tham Party was viewed as a plan-B party in case Pheu Thai got dissolved ahead of the election. Pheu Thai is currently under scrutiny by the Election Commission to see if the party was under the influence of an outsider – a misconduct punishable with dissolution of the party under the new organic law.
Pheu Tham held its first meeting over the weekend and chose Sompong Amornvivat as its leader. Although the outcome did not match previous speculation that Thaksin’s brother-in-law Somchai would lead this sister-party, Sompong was still his close aide – a deputy PM when Somchai was the prime minister in 2008.
Pheu Tham is also based in Chiang Mai province, the Shinawatra hometown and political stronghold.
A new theory, however, has emerged recently that Pheu Tham, if not a substitute party, could help Pheu Thai secure more seats in Parliament.
Under the new election method, when a party such as Pheu Thai has already won in many constituencies, it is likely that it would gain fewer seats for party-list MPs.
Party-list candidates from Pheu Thai could take shelter under Pheu Tham.
Even if Pheu Tham does not win in constituencies, it would have plenty of votes to send party-list candidates to Parliament.
Politicians from both parties, however, denied this connection.
Though they admitted that both parties may exchange politicians, Pheu Thai’s secretary-general said that legally they were two separate entities.
The Pheu Tham leader, meanwhile, denied it was a substitute party for Pheu Thai. However, he welcomed Pheu Thai members to join his party.