Cold water poured on PPRP rejig

Cold water poured on PPRP rejig

Outbreak fight still priority, say sources

Palang Pracharath leader and Finance Minister Uttama Savanayana
Palang Pracharath leader and Finance Minister Uttama Savanayana

The reported build-up of pressure inside the ruling Palang Pracharath Party for a cabinet shake-up and a change of party leadership will bring about neither as now is not the time to be making political moves, said a highly placed party source and an academic.

Covid-19 infections are on a downward trend, setting in motion political manoeuvring in the ruling party with reports of an internal push for replacements of key executives including PPRP leader Uttama Savanayana, who is also finance minister, and Sontirat Sontijirawong, the party secretary-general who is concurrently energy minister.

The air has been thick with speculation of a major changing of the guard in the PPRP that might see Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon succeeding Mr Uttama as the party leader and Deputy Minister of Finance Santi Promphat taking over from Mr Sontirat.

Gen Prawit doubles as the PPRP chief strategist, a powerful post that rivals that of the party leader.

The internal pressure being piled on the party leaders and secretary-general could lead to a cabinet reshuffle affecting the PPRP's ministerial quota in a significant way, according to a source in the PPRP.

A new PPRP leader and secretary-general would lead to a major shake-up of party executives with new faces poised to be elected who are likely to take some cabinet seats currently being held by fellow PPRP heavyweights, including Mr Uttama and Mr Sontirat.

But Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha was quick to pour cold water on any prospect of an imminent cabinet reshuffle.

"There'll be no bargaining for seats. It is I who make the changes," Gen Prayut told Gen Prawit and Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak.

Although it has been more than a year since the election, the current cabinet has been in power for six months.

Gen Prayut refused to go along with a push for a cabinet reshuffle by members of a faction within the PPRP as he felt the country was currently preoccupied with the task of combating the Covid-19 pandemic.

Gen Prawit, meanwhile, denied the PPRP members were calling for a party executive meeting to be convened to elect a new party leader.

The source said some party members may be frustrated with Mr Uttama and Mr Sontirat for not giving them more roles in implementing government policies to fight Covid-19, which would have enabled them to score political points.

Gen Prawit also agreed that the battle against the virus overrides other priorities.

"Let's just wait for this crisis to blow over and see to it that people get back on their feet first," the deputy premier said.

Stithorn Thananithichote, director of the Research and Development Office at King Prajadhipok's Institute, told the Bangkok Post a change in the PPRP leadership culminating in a cabinet reshuffle soon would be impossible under present circumstances.

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