Chadchart tipped as Pheu Thai's PM pick

Chadchart tipped as Pheu Thai's PM pick

Sudarat seen as rival as talk of blocking bid builds

Chadchart Sittipunt and Sudarat Keyuraphan hold up their fists at a Pheu Thai Party meeting. (File photo by Somchai Poomlard)
Chadchart Sittipunt and Sudarat Keyuraphan hold up their fists at a Pheu Thai Party meeting. (File photo by Somchai Poomlard)

Former transport minister Chadchart Sittipunt is tipped to be nominated as one of the Pheu Thai Party's prime ministerial candidates ahead of the general election.

Mr Chadchart has reportedly decided to quit his businesses and re-enter the political fray as a potential Pheu Thai candidate for the top job. His move has boosted the party's popularity and received positive responses from several quarters, a party source told the Bangkok Post.

A survey by the party showed Pheu Thai would win more seats if Mr Chadchart, who is popular with a sizeable segment of social media users, was listed as a prime ministerial candidate.

Mr Chadchart is still an unknown to most voters, and gained only 7% in the latest Nida Poll announced Sunday. It is designed to measure the popularity of current candidates.

Gen Prayut still topped that poll with 26.2%, while Khunying Sudarat easily defeated Mr Chadchart with 22.4% of voter sentiment.

However, no sooner had Mr Chadchart emerged as a potential candidate, than some people were said to be organising a bid to block him.

The National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) has previously denied reports that a probe against Mr Chadchart was being rushed as speculation intensified that the former transport minister would be nominated.

Watcharapol Prasarnrajkit, the NACC chairman, denied the NACC was trying to block Mr Chadchart.

Mr Chadchart is among the 34 former cabinet ministers who served in the ousted Yingluck Shinawatra administration who have been accused of failing to perform their duties properly.

One case involves an NACC probe into the multi-million-baht compensation scheme which her government paid to victims of the political conflict that started in 2005.

The NACC accused the former ministers of approving the compensation without any legal foundation to support it.

The source insisted Mr Chadchart's inclusion as a potential prime minister candidate showed an apparent polarisation in Pheu Thai, with some supporting Khunying Sudarat Keyuraphan, who is currently in charge of the party's election strategy committee, as a rival candidate.

However, Khunying Sudarat denied Sunday there was competition between her and Mr Chadchart. She said she was ready to support Mr Chadchart's bid.

"Don't worry that we'll get into a fight. Mr Chadchart has what it takes to become prime minister," Khunying Sudarat said while meeting her supporters in Din Daeng and Huai Khwang districts.

She said the party's list of candidates for prime minister will become clear when the election date is announced.

Suthin Klangsaeng, a former Pheu Thai MP, said Pheu Thai has not yet decided who will be listed as the No.1 candidate for prime minister.

However, it is not necessary for a No.1 candidate to become prime minister as candidates No.2 or No.3 also have a chance depending on the recognition they gain from party members and the public, Mr Suthin said.

Each party must submit a list of up to three prime ministerial candidates to the Election Commission before the election.

Pheu Thai secretary-general Phumtham Wechayachai said the party's executive board has not yet considered who will be nominated as candidate for prime minister.

Former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra denied in a Twitter post made Sunday that she has supported a particular Pheu Thai member, understood to be Mr Chadchart, to be a candidate for prime minister.

The decision to choose prime ministerial candidates rests with the party, she said.

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