Knock-out blow eludes PDRC

Knock-out blow eludes PDRC

Things are getting worse with each passing day. That is what Pheu Thai Party bigwigs concluded with a heavy heart when they met to assess the political situation early this week.

Caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra looks concerned as her Pheu Thai-led government is being cornered by a series of court cases which include an impeachment threat against her. Patipa t Janthong

Former prime minister Somchai Wongsawat and Pheu Thai executive committee members discussed the various political scenarios with some 40 party leaders from all regions and core leaders of the red-shirt United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship.

They grudgingly accepted that Pheu Thai is now being cornered by intensifying political attacks from all fronts.

They believe these attacks are orchestrated by the ammart system (the aristocratic or bureaucratic elite) with the ultimate goal not only of unseating the government but also eliminating the so-called Thaksin regime.

They also believe that both caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and her brother-in-law, Mr Somchai, are being blacklisted by the ammart system and that they will never be permitted to return to the political helm.

Pheu Thai is unhappy with the Constitution Court and other independent agencies which under the charter are supposed to function as part of the checks-and-balances system.

It believes these organisations oppose the party and are making decisions which favour the ammart and the opposition Democrat Party.

Under Pheu Thai’s game plan, Mr Somchai has been assigned to replace Ms Yingluck should she face impeachment.

But his chances of taking office as prime minister for a second time are likely to be blocked by certain “political accidents”, according to the party’s assessment.

The Constitution Court has started its hearing into whether the Feb 2 election should be nullified. It will deliver its ruling Friday.

According to Pheu Thai’s assessment, the election will be certainly revoked which means a new general election will have to be called. As a result, the plan for Pheu Thai to take office again will be further delayed.

Meanwhile, the anti-government protest, now entering its fifth month, is losing its sizzle. Although the movement has succeeded in rendering the government dysfunctional, it has still failed to unseat it from power.

“We have won many rounds of the fight,” said Satit Wongnongtoey, a core leader of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) and a former Democrat politician. “But we still cannot make the Yingluck government fall yet.”

As long as Ms Yingluck refuses to step down, the rallies will have to continue, he insisted.

It is apparent, however, that the number of the protesters has drastically declined. So has the financial support to oil the protest machine.

The PDRC says it is confident its supporters will return to the streets when the PDRC announces its next big rally.

But the fate of the Yingluck administration is no longer determined by the number of protesters alone.

If the court rules to annul the Feb 2 election, the PDRC, which opposes the election, will certainly boast that it is its victory as well.

A far more serious threat to Ms Yingluck’s political survival is the pending ruling by the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) on the rice-pledging scheme.

If the NACC rules she is guilty in the rice scheme, Ms Yingluck must step aside promptly.

The person next in line to replace her is deputy prime minister and Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul.

Attacks on the Constitution Court and the NACC have increased. The red shirts have also stepped up their campaign to protect the government against perceived threats from the courts and independent agencies.

Despite that, the nullification of the Feb 2 election and the rice-scheme ruling are not the only political threats Pheu Thai is facing.

Pheu Thai MPs and senators — 308 of them to be exact — also face the axe for their votes to endorse a charter amendment to change the composition of the Senate, which has been ruled as unconstitutional.

Should the NACC find them guilty, more than 200 Pheu Thai MPs may be banned from politics which will prevent them from running in the next election.

Fearing the worst, Pheu Thai has reacted by issuing an open statement defying the Constitution Court.

The party said many organisations created under the constitution were now conspiring with one another to nullify the Feb 2 election. Any moves to call off the election will widen divisions in the country.

It says the Election Commission should have taken the PDRC and the Democrat Party to task for obstructing the poll.

Its apparent indifference looks suspicious, as if the EC is creating a scene for the election to be annulled by the court, Pheu Thai said.

The PDRC would then fold its protest tents and the Democrats would agree to run in the succeeding poll.

It says the EC is creating a political vacuum which also invites the setting up of a non-elected government, or even a coup.

But even if Pheu Thai’s worst fear comes true — be it the revocation of the Feb 2 election or the ruling against Ms Yingluck in the rice scheme — the Yingluck government could still manage to hold on to power.

The "Thaksin regime" would also carry on, though in a weakened state.

Despite the Pheu Thai Party’s resolution to oppose the Constitution Court’s ruling in advance, this may not amount to much, as there’s only so much the party can do to stop the independent bodies from doing their job. Pheu Thai has no choice but to accept the ruling, however it turns out.

It must also face the fact that just as the anti-government movement has grown weaker, so has Pheu Thai itself.

Nattaya Chetchotiros is Assistant News Editor, Bangkok Post.

Nattaya Chetchotiros

Assistant News Editor

Nattaya Chetchotiros is Assistant News Editor, Bangkok Post.

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