Over two months after the May 14 general election, Thailand is yet to have a new government as parliamentary voting for a prime minister has hit a deadlock.
Parliament president Wan Muhamad Noor Matha decided to postpone the next vote for a new PM, initially planned for today, pending the Constitutional Court's ruling on the rejected renomination of the Move Forward Party (MFP) leader, Pita Limjaroenrat.
The charter court has accepted a petition filed by the Ombudsman. The petition requires the court to rule on whether the use of parliamentary regulations to reject the MFP leader's renomination on July 19 was unconstitutional.
The first nomination of Mr Pita on July 13 was derailed as the Senate used its provisional powers -- under the contentious 2017 charter -- to remove the MFP leader from the race. Mr Pita, who needed 375 votes from the joint sitting of the two Houses, gained 324 votes as most of the Upper House abstained.
As Mr Pita faces a court injunction over allegations regarding his iTV shares, the MFP allowed Pheu Thai to take the lead in forming a government amid clear attempts by the conservative side to force the MFP out. Now the ball is in the charter court's court to decide if the use of parliamentary meeting code No.41 in sealing Mr Pita's fate violated the 2017 charter. Should the court throw out the Ombudsman's petition, it's likely that another round of voting for a PM will take place on Aug 3. If not, this political vacuum will drag on, while the power struggle to kick the MFP out of the Pheu Thai-led coalition will further complicate the process.
Delays in forming governments have not been common in Thai political history. Looking back, it normally took between 10-30 days for a PM's selection.
In September 1992, then-Democrat leader Chuan Leekpai won the premiership 10 days after winning the election -- the first after the popular uprising in May of the same year. It took him 16 days to form a coalition government. Fast forward to 1995, Banharn Silpa-archa, leader of the then Chart Thai Party, got the top job 11 days after the July 2 election, while his successor Chavalit Yongchaiyudh of the then New Aspiration Party -- who formed a six-party coalition -- was named PM eight days after the 1996 election.
It took Thaksin Shinawatra of the then Thai Rak Thai Party and his sister Yingluck, who led Pheu Thai, around one month to get into Thai Khu Fah building after the 2001 and 2010 elections, respectively. The Pheu Thai-led party was ousted from power after a major political crisis resulting from its shameful attempt to push for a contentious blanket amnesty bill. The political confrontation ended in a coup led by Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha and the National Council for Peace and Order in 2014.
The absurdity was obvious after the 2019 election, as Gen Prayut, the then-candidate of the Palang Pracharat Party, won the top job 73 days after the March 24 election, forming a razor-thin majority coalition government. Of course, the junta leader-turned-politician would not have made it without the help of the military-leaning Senate.
This time, the Senate's refusal to accept the voters' mandate is the start of political stagnation, while Pheu Thai's dalliance with the conservatives has angered the public. There is speculation the old conservative side may form another minority government, with the support of the Senate, further fuelling public anger. As this political tug-of-war continues, Thais have to keep their fingers crossed that all sides will place national interest before their parties and themselves.