The road ahead will be a rough one for Prayut
The road ahead will no longer be easy for a new government under the leadership of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha.
Well wishers of Gen Prayut are gleeful since it's almost certain that he and his Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) will form a coalition, as they managed to get support from 20 political parties. Combined with the backup of 250 senators, handpicked by the junta, Gen Prayut is now being tipped as the next prime minister. This will allow his staunch supporters to heave a sigh of relief, despite ongoing attacks on social media by his political opponents condemning the continuation of power by the military regime, with every effort made to stop many political parties from joining the coalition.
The attempts, however, have been in vain, since everything was prepared in advance -- from the drafting of the charter, the election law and the new poll rules, to the huge spending by the government in power and the use of state apparatus -- to give Gen Prayut and the PPRP an advantage.
Additionally, various tactics have been deployed to draw "cobras" -- renegade politicians to jump ship from the opposing political parties. The proof can be seen in the recent election of the House Speaker and deputy speakers last week.
That was the first move to gain other political parties' support for the continuation of the status quo. Undoubtedly, the new House Speaker -- Chuan Leekpai of the Democrat Party -- will nominate Gen Prayut for royal endorsement as the 30th prime minister.
However, assuming Gen Prayut takes the PM's seat for a second term, he will find himself at the centre of negotiations among the coalition parties. He will no longer be the coup installed-premier with the strong backing of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) and he will no longer have the ability to exercise the all-powerful Section 44 that once allowed him to issue any order without it being vetoed.
What happened during the coalition negotiations should make Gen Prayut realise that even though he still has the power to select people for political positions, he cannot escape bargaining with cunning political parties. The most important lesson to be learned is that politics is all about benefits and power-bargaining.
From now on, Gen Prayut will govern the country based on negotiations and the mutual benefit of both politicians and political parties. If the benefits are clear, his government will last a long time. If not, the task will be quite tough for him.
Without any weapons in hand -- be it the NCPO or the army's support -- and with the chances of staging another coup slim, the road ahead will not be easy for the new government's leader, particularly as the performance of the outgoing administration has failed to fulfil the public's expectations.
Worse still, outside of parliament, the pro-democracy camp have not stopped their attempt to stir up hatred against what they label as "dictatorship".
A series of tougher tasks await Gen Prayut's new government, as it will have to deal with the economic problems left by its predecessor, particularly income inequality at the grassroots level. Despite huge investments in various megaprojects, many public polls on the government's popularity still show unsatisfactory results, even when the projects are free from corruption allegations.
His new government's economic team will be faced with the steeper challenge of proving itself as capable, as the team is expected to feature mostly the same old faces from the outgoing administration.
Furthermore, Gen Prayut will have to cope with bargaining with other parties, such as with the Bhumjaithai Party, whose campaign message was to fully legalise marijuana cultivation for medical purposes, which will definitely involve huge benefits. The Bhumjaithai has negotiated for certain ministerial seats so it can fulfil its campaign promises.
The Democrats, meanwhile, have successfully taken the top position in the legislative branch. The veteran party came up with its proposed conditions for constitutional amendments, a move seen as an attempt to restore the party's image and popularity. In the fierce political game, Gen Prayut has to be aware of the "cobras", to help ensure their parliamentary support in the future.
One of the tasks that Gen Prayut's communications team took care of earlier was creating a strategy focusing on a "new generation". The team generally handles communication on social media while giving proper responses to rumours or criticism in an active way. This team reports directly to the prime minister.
With all the challenges ahead, I hope the new prime minister devotes himself fully to the negotiations, because this will provide long-lasting armour that might protect his government and the entire nation.
Nauvarat Suksamran is assistant news editor, Bangkok Post.