PM still at crossroads

PM still at crossroads

Like it or not, the Constitutional Court's ruling yesterday gives society much-needed clarity. After a month of debates and rumours, the ruling clearly spells out that PM Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha's term started on April 6, 2017, which was the date the present charter was promulgated, and his previous leadership under the junta government did not apply under this constitution.

According to the ruling, the eight-year limit on Gen Prayut's tenure in office will expire in mid-2025.

In terms of politics, Gen Prayut is still near the end of his time as leader. If he chooses to run and win the next election scheduled for May next year, he can only be premier for two years, instead of four years.

But the ruling upsets many. Loyal fans of Gen Prayut and some MPs in Palang Pracharath Party are hugely disappointed. The party in particular will have a big headache in finding a new leader to attract voters who might not want to vote for a PM who can serve only two years. Likewise, anti-Prayut protesters who believe his eight-year term already ended on Aug 24, will have another justification to protest on the streets.

Like it or not, we need to respect the Constitutional Court's ruling. Society must move on, set our eyes on the general election and choose worthy MPs to make the parliamentary system work as it should.

The ruling yesterday provides society with the chance to choose whether it will return to street protests and risk more violence, or give the parliamentary system a few months to run its term in April. Then, voters can express their wishes in the next election by voting decent politicians into public office.

The ruling also gives PM Prayut a major opportunity to create his final footprints. His decision and his performance in the next few months will determine how he will be remembered.

Regardless of the court ruling, Gen Prayut in reality has served as premier for eight years since he staged a coup in 2014 and became a PM under the junta government that year.

In his first year, he promised the moon -- reforming the country, eradicating corruption, uniting the country and rewriting the charter. He even wrote a song wooing the public to give him "just a little more time" to bring back a "beautiful and peaceful society".

Many of his big promises are yet to be fulfilled. Charter rewriting is not complete. Corruption is thriving. Society remains as divided as ever. Even worse, political dissidents were criminalised over the course of the eight years.

Society has given Gen Prayut more than plenty of time. What he now must do is spend the last few months handling economic problems: rising inflation and a weakening currency. He also needs to ensure that the Apec meeting in November goes smoothly. He needs to run the country solidly until parliament's four-year term expires next April.

Gen Prayut will likewise need to make a political decision. He can choose to contest the next election and risk losing and see old political divisiveness come to the forefront. Or he can follow in the footsteps of former PM Gen Prem Tinsulanonda who ran the country for eight years as a non-partisan leader and made history in 1983 when he said: "That is enough" as he turned down offers by politicians to reclaim the premiership.


Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.

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