Battle of wits as candidates fight for Senate Speaker's post

national May 09, 2014 00:00

By Khanittha Thepphajorn
The Nat

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The Senate meeting today will be worth watching, with the appointed and the newly elected senators voting to select a new Senate Speaker.

As there is no House of Representatives at the moment, the Senate remains the only legislative institution and can play a very crucial role in Thai politics.

Among the total 150 senators, there are four apparent candidates for the post, and they can be divided into three groups based on their supporters.
Appointed Senator Pol General Jongrak Jutanont and Maha Sarakham Senator Srimuang Charoensiri have the support of the Shinawatras and some Pheu Thai Party members. 
Deputy House Speaker Surachai Liengboonlertchai, an appointed senator, has the support of the anti-Pheu Thai group of senators while Suphan Buri Senator Jongchai Thiengtham, who has very good connections with the Chart Thai Pattana Party, is promoting himself for the post.
The group of 40 senators that opposes the Pheu Thai government keeps it strength. The group’s campaign promoting the Senate Speaker’s ability to solve the political crisis is supported by at least 20 new senators. 
When combined with the 60 supporters it had gained earlier, it is likely that Surachai – a legal expert – will sail through and get the Senate’s top post in the first round of voting.
Jongrak’s position is similar to Surachai in the sense that he does not explicitly take Pheu Thai’s side and he is also experienced in legislation. 
That’s why he and his supporters still stand a chance. 
Jongrak has the support of at least 10 friends in the appointed-senators camp, who are former police officers or business people. He also has good connections with the Pheu Thai Party. 
Therefore, it is believed that 25-30 senators allied with the Pheu Thai Party will vote for him.
Srimuang, on the other hand, might just be a decoy. 
He has a direct connection with fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra and is influential in the Northeast. 
He can link with the senators who are not clearly attached to any political side. Therefore, he might get the support of 25-30 senators.
Jongchai might get 10-15 votes and could be a game changer if he decides to shift his support to another candidate – particularly one from the Pheu Thai camp. 
  A similar thing happened two years ago when Nikom Wairatpanij, who has close ties with the Pheu Thai Party, won the Senate Speaker’s seat. 
The only way the anti-Thaksin camp can ensure that Surachai gets power in his hand is if he wins more than half the votes in the first round.

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