MFP's 'straightforward' image in doubt
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MFP's 'straightforward' image in doubt

A Move Forward Party supporter with the party's trademark logo and slogan reading 'straightforward' is seen during an election campaign event in Bangkok on April 22. (Photo: Reuters)
A Move Forward Party supporter with the party's trademark logo and slogan reading 'straightforward' is seen during an election campaign event in Bangkok on April 22. (Photo: Reuters)

'You can't have your cake and eat it." So goes the popular English proverb that warns that one cannot have two incompatible things at the same time.

But the opposition Move Forward Party (MFP) did the opposite when it decided to claim the head of the opposition post for its newly elected leader, Chaithawat Tulathon, and, simultaneously, to retain the deputy House speaker job for its constituency MP, Padipat Suntiphada.

The opposition leader's post, which must be royally appointed, has been left vacant after former MFP leader Pita Limjaroenrat was ordered by the Constitutional Court to cease performing his parliamentary duties after the court accepted to consider a case in which he was accused of holding a stake in a media firm when he registered his electoral candidacy for the May 14 election.

However, the party cannot have the two parliamentary posts simultaneously due to the restriction under Section 106 of the constitution.

So, what the MFP did, after consulting with Mr Padipat, was to expel him from the party so he could join a new party, possibly another smaller opposition party, such as the Fair Party, and still keep his deputy House speaker position intact so he can pursue his goal to improve the efficiency and transparency of the parliament as he claims.

It is clear that Mr Padipat's heart and soul are still with the MFP, although he will have to wear a new hat. Come the next election, it would not be a surprise if he switched back to the MFP and donned an orange shirt.

In other words, the "expulsion" of Mr Padipat from the MFP was actually with the consent or the collusion of both parties to circumvent Section 106 of the constitution, which bars the party whose leader is the opposition leader from holding the post of the House speaker or deputy House speaker.

Other politicians called MFP's "expulsion" of Mr Padipat a "political circus", a shameful act of political chicanery or a dirty trick -- the type of political shenanigans that the MFP had previously berated other political parties and other traditional politicians for. Whatever the derogatory comments, the party's political move is cunningly legitimate and not straightforward.

Normally, a party member is sacked if he/she is found to have committed a gross violation of the party's regulation. But Mr Padipat did nothing wrong to justify his expulsion.

Despite the negative criticism, MFP and Mr Padipat remain unperturbed. They will have their cake and eat it without sharing it with others. The image of Mr Padipat holding the party's orange flag and the short message which reads: "Walk separately to effect changes in the country" bares all about the party's ultimate goal.

Unlike the rest of the parties, particularly the major parties like Pheu Thai, Bhumjaithai and the Democrat Party, which are too conservative or obsolete, MFP is forward-looking and has a clear vision of what it wants to achieve in the next four years at the polling booths.

Touted as an alternative to old and corrupt politicians, MFP became popular with its progressive policies and, above all, the image of having "straightforward" politicians.

Now, the party is embarking on a two-prong approach. One approach is to intensify its activities in the House to keep checks on the government's performance under the leadership of Mr Chaithawat.

The other approach is outside parliament politics led by Mr Pita and, probably, with the help of three core members of the Progressive Movement, namely Thanathorn Juangroong-ruangkit, Piyabutr Saengkanokkul and Pannika Wanich.

The party is aiming for a landslide victory in the next election and is targeting the new generation of Thais as its supporters. Winning an additional 90 House seats, more than the 160 seats it won in the May 14 election, is an uphill task, but not unachievable, given the mood of young Thais yearning for change, which they do not expect from the other parties.

The Pheu Thai Party has made many promises during the election campaign, and several of them are unlikely to be achieved within the government's four-year term. Among them are a 25,000-baht salary for BA graduates and a 600-baht daily minimum wage.

Even though the party will have a new leader, Paetongtarn Shinawatra, soon, this will not help change the image of the party, which is dominated by old-generation politicians.

The party's key figures will be tied up with routine work in government or parliament, so they will barely have time to reach out to young voters, which differs from the MFP. It won't be surprising if Pheu Thai sees further losses in its traditional political bases to the MFP.

Parliament is not a place of worship, and politicians are not monks who are supposed to have more of a moral high ground than the lay people. But, at least, they must be true to themselves.

And the MFP's "sacking" of Mr Padipat does not qualify as an honest act. Moreover, it is a miscalculation not worth the risk as the deputy House speaker's post is not that politically significant.

Veera Prateepchaikul

Former Editor

Former Bangkok Post Editor, political commentator and a regular columnist at Post Publishing.

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