Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin has announced that Thailand will enter a period of change during his four-year term in office. His statement has inspired hopes which transpired into expectations to see substantial and fundamental reforms across key areas encompassing society, politics, and the economy.
Furthermore, the creation of a "depolarising government," led by the Pheu Thai party, has ignited optimism for an end to the longstanding political conflicts that have led to social divisions in Thailand for nearly two decades.
The ruling Pheu Thai Party asserts that its special government, inclusive of its political rivals and parties implicated in the 2014 military coup -- namely, the Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) and the United Thai Nation Party (UTN) -- aims to "depolarise all factions" and collectively address the constitutional crisis impeding the nation's progress.
Nevertheless, the anticipation for "changes," as pledged by the prime minister, remains to be seen, as the entrenched norms of Thai politics persist.
Yet as the prime minister's vision of "change" takes centre stage, its tangible manifestation remains elusive.
The tenacious grip of conventional Thai political paradigms persists despite the prevailing enthusiasm for reform. Intricate negotiations have intensified, particularly concerning the composition of the upcoming cabinet.
Notably, Pheu Thai is grappling with the challenge of managing its alliance, particularly the Bhumjaithai Party -- third winner in the recent election. This underscores the vulnerability inherent within a coalition government, where the ruling party may struggle to uphold its policy commitments due to limited control over coalition members.
Irrespective of Mr Srettha's intentions, obstacles may emerge from coalition parties if his policies infringe upon their interests and ministerial portfolios. This scenario mirrors the experiences of his predecessor, Prayut Chan-o-cha, whose decisive management style failed to materialise many policies and ideas due to objections from coalition parties safeguarding their gains.
Among the 11 coalition parties within the Pheu Thai-led government, three prominent parties were once political adversaries of Pheu Thai. This trio, comprising Bhumjaithai, PPRP, and UTN, collectively commands 136 MPs -- a slightly lower count compared to Pheu Thai's 141.
Consequently, Pheu Thai's ability to implement its policies is constrained. While the Move Forward Party (MFP)'s previous initiative to secure its allies' support through memoranda of understanding (MoUs) is commendable, Pheu Thai would find it hard to rely on such an approach, given its history of breaking the MoU with MFP-led bloc to establish the "decentralising government."
For Mr Srettha's vision of "changes" to bear fruit, effective strategies are imperative to align parties with his direction while adeptly managing their tendency to safeguard personal interests rather than public ones.
Should Mr Srettha fail to achieve this, heavy negotiations driven by vested interests, ultimately compromising the overall performance of the government, will persist. The concept of a depolarising government which dissolves factions necessitates that all parties prioritise public benefits over individual gains.
This tough task now rests upon the shoulders of Prime Minister Srettha, who carries the aspirations of the nation toward a more promising future.