Defections by former Pheu Thai, Democrat MPs expected to strengthen its chances, but coalition govt could be unstable, experts warn
THE PRO-JUNTA Palang Pracharat Party could win the next election but the post-poll coalition government it would lead would be unstable, according to experts.
Thanks to mass defections by former MPs and veteran politicians to the newly formed party, Palang Pracharat could win at least 130 of the 500 House seats up for grabs and become the biggest winner, King Prajadhipok’s Institute senior researcher Stithorn Thananithichot said yesterday.
His estimates are based on the assumption that the pro-junta party’s election candidates, many of whom are former MPs, will win about 50 seats from their traditional strongholds. Some 80 other MP seats would come from the party-list system of proportional representation, the researcher said.
Stithorn expects Palang Pracharat to secure an average of 20,000 votes in the 300 constituencies that it would lose. That would be 6 million votes in total. When divided by 70,000 – the minimum votes for a winning candidate – the 6 million votes would translate into 80 to 85 party-list MPs, he said.
The next election will mark the first time when only one ballot will be used to vote for both constituency and party-list MPs. All the votes gained by each political party will be totalled to determine the number of party-list MPs it can get.
“Palang Pracharat has a good chance of forming the next government. But how long the coalition will survive depends on the second and third largest partners, who will have high bargaining power,” Stithorn said.
“It is unlikely Palang Pracharat will be able to form a government on its own. Pheu Thai and Democrat parties will win sufficient MPs to make them potential coalition partners,” he added.
The researcher also said that Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha had a good chance of returning as head of the next government if Palang Pracharat backed him as its PM candidate.
However, political scientist Trakoon Meechai warned that a coalition government led by Palang Pracharat would be unstable, as the party had gathered many defecting politicians.
These politicians mainly focus on their personal interest and generally have no firm political ideology, which explains why they opted to change their allegiance in the first place, the academic said.
“Palang Pracharat seems to have an edge in the election. But it will become unstable. There will be a lot of political bargaining. Without good responses [to different demands], it will face a problem of political stability,” Trakoon said.
He pointed to certain “lessons from the past” when large political parties wooed strong candidates into their fold with the only goal of forming the government. Their coalition governments soon became unstable when the MPs were discontented with their gains.
In order to avoid such a “vicious cycle” for Thai politics, the academic called on Prayut and the ruling National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) to “back off from the political ring and return to their role as the referee”.
He said that to ensure the political reforms it had promised, the NCPO needed to “stop meddling with politics, or Thai politics will never see a way out”.
Veteran politician Chaturon Chaisang said yesterday that the current Constitution drafted by a junta-appointed committee allows Prayut to become a PM candidate after the election without having to be a member of any political party. However, he expected Prayut to “go on with difficulty and wear down quickly” when he is denied the special powers under Article 44 of the post-coup interim charter, which the junta leader has retained in the current Constitution.
Chaturon, who recently left Pheu Thai to join Thai Raksa Chart, said he believed “pro-democracy politicians” had defected to the other side after being pressured with legal problems.
He said the junta’s obvious attempt to retain power reflected its failure to keep the promise of reforms for a better political system.
“We have seen how the NCPO and its people have ruined Thailand’s political system,” Chaturon said.
Palang Pracharat has attracted more than 1,300 members, allowing the party to have more than the expected election candidates, party registrar Vichien Chavalit said yesterday.
Among its new members are many ex-MPs and former government ministers from other parties, mainly Pheu Thai.
Vichien said Palang Pracharat has not formally discussed whether to nominate Prayut as its PM candidate. That would be done “when the time is right”, he added.
Among politicians joining Palang Pracharat are 40 former MPs from Pheu Thai and now-defunct parties associated with former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, namely Thai Rak Thai and People Power, according to red-shirt leader Weng Tojirakarn.
Weng, a former Pheu Thai MP, recently left the party to join Thai Raksa Chart, which is viewed as allied to the pro-Thaksin party.
In his Facebook message, Weng listed all the 40 defecting politicians and asked voters to “teach them a lesson” in the same way they had dealt with Pheu Thai defectors who had failed to get elected in the 2011 general election.
Meanwhile, Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva said yesterday that 17 of its former MPs had defected to other parties. But he did not reveal how many of them had joined Palang Pracharat.
A former prime minister, Abhisit maintained that the Democrats had no plans to join hands with Palang Pracharat, as his party is offering itself as a major choice for the country in the next election.