Pheu Thai's hopes rest on Yaowapa
Yingluck's big sister is expected to use her clout and keep MPs in lineYaowapa Wongsawat, already a powerful figure in the ruling Pheu Thai Party, will take on the additional role of overseeing its MPs and their parliamentary work if she is elected as Chiang Mai MP in next month's by-election, party sources revealed yesterday.
With her five-year ban from politics being lifted at the end of May, Yaowapa will be able to step in as an MP to help Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra control the situation in the House, which should heat up this year with several debates.
She is also expected to closely supervise the MPs and ensure that House meetings no longer end prematurely due to a lack of quorum. An absence of coalition MPs, usually those from the ruling-Pheu Thai Party, has been blamed for several embarrassing incidents.
The ruling party's executive committee yesterday resolved to field Yaowapa in the April 21 by-election to fill the seat of Chiang Mai's Constituency 3 MP left vacant by Pheu Thai MP Kasem Nimmolrat.
Kasem, who is close to Yaowapa's family, had won the by-election in June last year to replace Yaowapa's daughter Chinnicha, whose election victory was disqualified.
Yaowapa, a sister of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and Yingluck, has been wielding power from behind the scenes as a faction leader for several years now.
If she becomes an MP, she will have greater influence in controlling party MPs in relation to their parliamentary work, a Pheu Thai source explained.
The source said a recent phone-in by Thaksin during a Pheu Thai weekly meeting was not sufficient, especially since the prime minister appears to be uninterested in parliamentary affairs.
"If Yaowapa becomes an MP, the MPs' problems will be heard and cooperation within the party will become better," the source said.
Yaowapa leads a group of Pheu Thai MPs in the North and has reportedly been trying to get Bhum Jai Thai Party's Matchima faction, led by Somsak Thepsutin, to join and bolster the Pheu Thai coalition.
Cabinet members from her faction are Science Minister Woravat Auapinyakul, PM's Office Minister Varathep Ratanakorn and Commerce Minister Boonsong Teriyapirom.
But if Yaowapa re-enters the political limelight as an MP, she will find herself being pushed to live up to her profile as a powerful woman.
Pheu Thai MPs have said they want Yaowapa in the House because the coalition needs a senior figure who is respected by both Pheu Thai MPs and lawmakers of coalition partners and can thus control political games and log-rolling in Parliament.
Before her five-year ban, Yaowapa had been both a constituency-based and party-list MP and also chairperson of the House Committee on Industry, though she rarely spoke in the House.
She has never held a Cabinet seat, but was an adviser to the prime minister during the second Thai Rak Thai government.
Pheu Thai MPs also expect Yaowapa's presence to help ease political manoeuvrings by the coalition on the House floor. Especially since the coalition plans to enact several crucial bills, including the 2014 fiscal year budget, a bill to allow the government to obtain Bt2 trillion in loans, a constitutional amendment bill and an amnesty bill in the near future.
Pushing these bills safely through Parliament will require someone with enough charisma and clout to coordinate with all sides.
However, some observers wonder whether Yaowapa is up to the task, especially in light of
negative reports on her role in alleged irregularities in various projects.
A coalition source said Yaowapa is also needed to help the coalition push for the implementation of water-management mega-projects and the enactment of bills necessary for the launch of comprehensive transportation projects.
She will also be tasked with helping Yingluck answer tough questions on controversial projects such as the rice-pledging scheme.
Yingluck is being pressured to clarify several issues over the past year and Yaowapa is no doubt expected to help relieve this pressure.
After all, Thaksin once reminded Yaowapa that she was fortunate to be related to three prime ministers of Thailand - her brother Thaksin, her sister Yingluck and her husband Somchai Wongsawat.