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SPECIAL REPORT: Parties urged to unite in allowing largest coalition to form govt

TWO KEY red-shirt leaders are calling for a “social contract” among political parties before they start contesting in the next election, so there are no renewed conflicts, no more loss of lives or damage to the country.

Jatuporn Promphan and Yongyuth Tiyapairat said parties should agree that a coalition with majority support in the 500-MP House of Representatives be allowed to form the next government and must be regarded as having secured the mandate from voters.
The two red-shirt leaders are self-appointed “cheerleaders” of a new political party called Puea Chat or “For the Nation”, and insist they are just supporters, not members of the party, which is dominated by red-shirt figures. 
Both politicians were found guilty in court in separate cases, and are technically prohibited by law from joining any political party or contesting an election. 
Jatuporn accepts the restrictions, but Yongyuth, a former House speaker and Parliament president, insists he still has political rights, though he has chosen to stay out of politics for the sake of peace and democracy. 
Previously the top leader of the red-shirt umbrella group, United Front of Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), Jatuporn said the junta-appointed Senate had to respect voter mandate and avoid helping a minority coalition to block the formation of a post-election government.
“Without a pre-election agreement, it is possible that a coalition with only 126 MPs could join forces with the 250 senators to gain a majority [in both Houses],” Jatuporn said.
He noted that the current Constitution, which has been in effect since April last year, empowers the Senate to vote with the Lower House in selecting the prime minister, if the 500 MPs are unable to reach an accord.
In the second round of voting, involving both Houses, the winning prime ministerial candidate needs to gain support from more than 375 parliamentarians. 
Some observers have warned that a party that wins the largest number of House seats, but not a majority in the Lower House, may fail to form a new coalition government after the next election. They said a pro-junta political party would first need to prevent its rival party from getting support from smaller parties to gain a majority in the Lower House. Then, when the Senate gets involved in the selection of the PM, the pro-junta party will need just 126 MPs to win majority in both Houses, as its candidate – or an outsider it supports – will likely be backed by all 250 senators. The 250 senators will be appointed by the ruling National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO). 
Also, since the Constitution does not set a deadline for the formation of a new government, the current junta-led administration headed by General Prayut Chan-o-cha can continue as a caretaker for as long as it takes for the winning parties to agree on the who should be the next premier. 
“Without talks between the stakeholders, there could be problems. The parties must reach a social contract based on democratic principles. The people’s mandate must be respected. Also, people in power must take part, otherwise we could end up going back to some point worse than the present,” Jatuporn said.
He pointed out that historically, talks between conflicting parties in Thailand often take place after clashes that lead to many deaths. He said he does not want to see such tragedies take place again. 
Instead, Jatuporn suggested, people in power or political parties should “play host” and start talks aimed at preventing renewed political conflict. “If they don’t do it, the public have to pressure them,” he added.
Political players should talk together, at least to help ease people’s worries that the next election could lead to more problems.
“If you don’t begin today, the country will be destined for crisis, whatever the [election] result is,” Jatuporn warned.
Yongyuth, meanwhile, foresees an unstable government following the election, no matter which side wins the national vote. He predicted that anti-military parties will not be able to rule the country despite their House majority, while the pro-military side would become a minority government with the Senate’s help, but no public support. 
“If we don’t try to fix this now, history will repeat itself,” he warned.

Published : November 11, 2018