Hungry 'parasites' drool over weak coalition govt
The past week has seen political minions from the single-seat parties, including Mongkolkit Suksintaranont, grabbing the media spotlight with a series of cheap tactics.
These "political parasites" have been lurking in Thai politics for decades. Now, thanks to a fragile ruling coalition desperate for every vote it can get, the die-hard species is once again flourishing. Yet the hard-bargaining minions are not getting everything their own way as they seek to exploit their power.
While all the large coalition parties were handed a slice of the political cake by the Prayut Chan-o-cha government, Mr Mongkolkit of the Thai Civilized Party and other minions missed out on cabinet appointments.
"It's too much for single-seat parties to demand the position of vice minister," a high-level source in the bargaining process was quoted as saying.
Disappointed, Mr Mongkolkit decided to rock the boat, withdrawing the support for the government -- though the other nine single-seat parties maintained their pledges of loyalty. Mr Mongkolkit told media he was frustrated at not being "treated with respect" by Gen Prayut's Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP).
The 37-year-old novice politician tried to save face by declaring his new "independent opposition" role. This looks like a tactic to increase his leverage in parliamentary politics. The move was crucial as he knows another chance for bargaining is imminent, with the PPRP set to nominate candidates for political posts, advisers to ministers and vice ministers, for cabinet consideration next week.
Mr Mongkolkit has a high profile among the political minions, thanks to his reputation as an anti-graft warrior. His network includes high-profile activists and political heavyweights, which perhaps fuels his exaggerated sense of self-importance.
With heavy challenges ahead from both political opponents and former friends, the PPRP has been forced to change its tactics. It has formed a working group tasked with information management, lobbying and coordinating with the government whip and the coalition partners. The mission is being overseen by Deputy Prime Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwon in his capacity as PPRP chief strategist.
The "political parasites", however, are not confined to small parties. The PPRP itself is showing cracks as several factions -- especially the Sam Mitr group -- threaten revolt after losing out in bargaining. It's not unexpected that factions should seek every chance to maximise benefits they believe they deserve.
Also hindering the PPRP's performance as coalition leader is a series of mishaps, chief of which is Gen Prayut's oath-taking blunder. Instead of making strategic and proactive moves, the ruling party is fighting day-to-day distractions, including calls for charter change and the proliferation of fake news.
Currently, Bhumjaithai appears the only party in the coalition that can boast strong performance, rolling out impressive-looking schemes and projects.
Gen Prayut's fragile coalition now faces another crucial test with the looming parliamentary session on the Budget Act, where it cannot afford to lose any support -- from either big or small friends. Prepare to witness another round of shrewd bargaining and political games as "parasite politicians" make demands in the hope of impressive returns, including budget allocation to their respective constituencies.
But in the end, Gen Prayut's administration must ensure that all bargains are sustainable, which means not yielding to dirty tricks or allowing individuals to exploit benefits at the expense of the public.
Nauvarat Suksamran is assistant news editor, Bangkok Post.