Will an interim prime minister spark civil strife?

national May 15, 2014 00:00

By Attayuth Bootsripoom

Two major issues - legitimacy and feasibility - hang over the latest call by the People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) for the Senate speaker, presidents of the three top courts and chairman of the Election Commission (EC) to nominate a premier unde

PDRC’s proposal has attracted criticism and begged the question over what would happen if the proposal were pushed through. Would it end the current political conflict or would it plunge the country into civil strife? Fearing Suthep’s plan will meet success, the government camp is trying hard to have him and other PDRC leaders arrested.

At this critical juncture, the public is split over whether the country really needs an appointed prime minister. Government supporters say there is no need because Niwattumrong Boonsongpaisan is already serving as acting PM, while the anti-government camp believes otherwise. The latter has been calling for a prime minister to be nominated under the so-called Article 7.

The issue of appointing a prime minister is also being highly politicised by the two rival political camps. Chiefs of the country’s three highest courts – the Supreme Court, the Supreme Administrative Court and Constitutional Court – the Senate Speaker and EC chairman have a lot to consider before deciding to jump on the bandwagon and getting involved in politics by accepting PDRC’s proposal.

The judiciary is extremely important to maintain justice, law and order in the country. In order to preserve public trust and faith in the institution, the courts need to be non-partisan or politically neutral. The stake would be huge if the public lost confidence in the judges. The ramifications and damage in this scenario would be much greater than that if the public loses faith in independent agencies.

A senior judge, who refused to be named, recently voiced disapproval over getting the judiciary involved in politics. He said judges could not cross the line since the proposal had no legal basis and there was no law empowering the courts to nominate a PM.

Although the EC secretary-general has voiced opposition to the PDRC’s proposal, the commission is one independent agency with a tendency to take a stance against the government camp – and it might just accept the suggestion.

Newly-elected acting Senate Speaker Surachai Liengboonlertchai allegedly has close ties with the PDRC. After being elected, he called a special session saying that without the Lower House, the Senate was the only institution that could solve Thailand's political crisis. However, he said, he had not considered nominating a non-partisan PM.

If these top officials reject the PDRC’s proposal, Suthep would be forced to find other ways to nominate the PM, as his group wishes. Even if he finally succeeds with his plan, the political conflict is not likely to end because opponents will reject it, leaving people to believe the PM in question would serve the interests of the PDRC and its allies, not that of the country.

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