Cabinet rejig serves who?
Increasing calls for a cabinet reshuffle by coalition parties must be giving Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha a headache. While reshuffles have become known to be little more than a form of political horse trading, the prime minister must think of the country and the public first before making any decisions.
Recent weeks have seen some coalition parties step up their demands for a cabinet reshuffle in order to allocate four available places -- two belonging to the Democrat and Bhumjaithai parties and the other two to the ruling Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP).
This week, Democrat leader Jurin Laksanawisit, who is also a deputy prime minister and the commerce minister, put the ball into Gen Prayut's court by nominating Naris Khamnurak, an MP for Phatthalung, as deputy interior minister. Mr Naris is intended to replace Niphon Bunyamanee who was forced to quit to fight corruption charges in court.
Meanwhile, PPRP members are eager to fill the two berths left by Capt Thamanat Prompow and Narumon Pinyosinwat, who were booted out of the cabinet last year for allegedly plotting against the PM.
In effect, a new appointment process may lead to a wider cabinet reshuffle, something Gen Prayut has tried to avoid for fear that fresh discord resulting from politicians competing for vacant seats could put coalition unity in jeopardy.
That would be bad for the image of the government and himself. Besides, with only five months remaining before the next election, the practicality of naming new ministers is open to question.
This is the reason why the prime minister gave a lukewarm reaction to the Democrat call. He told the media "I haven't thought about it."
Meanwhile, Gen Prayut, whose eligibility to serve as PM is limited to 2025, appears ambiguous about his political future.
Gen Prayut's stance on the cabinet, however, understandably comes from concerns of a wider rift within the PPRP. Among all three major parties in the coalition, the PPRP -- despite having several factions -- does not have a clear quota system. In comparison, the Democrats are fighting tooth and nail to get portfolios they believe will help secure support from the electorate ahead of the next election. While there has been no such enthusiasm from Bhumjaithai, the battle for positions has left dust swirling within the ruling PPRP.
Each faction is proposing its own reshuffle formula and is pressuring the PM through party leader Gen Prawit Wongsuwon, another deputy prime minister.
Since controlling the Interior Ministry which oversees provincial offices is seen as vital for electoral advantage, some PPRP members have made it clear they want Gen Prawit -- who is better at forging connections with local politicians -- to take over from Gen Anupong Paojinda, with him switching to the Defence Ministry. The suggested changes would enable the PPRP, whose popularity is in decline after a mass exodus of members, to take advantage of local mechanisms in a new power game.
This jockeying is all about political quid pro quos, and rarely for the public's benefit. Gen Prayut, whose political career has entered its penultimate chapter, must take careful steps. If he has a reshuffle, it must be for the right reasons, putting the right person in the right job, and not yielding to political pressure to satisfy greed and ambition.
If necessary, he could call for a House dissolution. In doing so, he would return power to the people, giving them a say in who should serve them.
Bangkok Post editorial column
These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.
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