Coalition-leader elects new chief as old guard ousted
The Palang Pracharath Party on Saturday elected Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon as its new leader in an uncontested race which uprooted people close to the previous leadership from its executive board as was widely anticipated.
The election, which took place at the ruling party's general assembly at the Muang Thong Thani convention centre, also handed to Anucha Nakasai the party secretary-general's seat, replacing Sontirat Sontijirawong, who is the energy minister.
Gen Prawit, also the party chief strategist, was swept to the party's top post succeeding Uttama Savanayana with 516 votes with Mr Anucha polling 485 votes.
The party also picked Boonsing Warinrak as party registrar and government spokeswoman Narumon Pinyosinwat as treasurer and chose 23 party executives, most of them re-elected.
The executives are: Santi Promphat, the deputy finance minister; Nataphol Teepsuwan, the education minister; Suriya Jungrungreangkit, the industry minister; Somsak Thepsutin, the justice minister; Buddhipongse Punnakanta, the digital economy and society minister; Thamanat Prompow, the deputy agriculture minister.
Others on the list are chief government whip Wirach Ratanasate; Paiboon Nititawan; Suchart Chomklin; Itthiphol Kunplome, the culture minister; Chaiwut Thanakamanasusorn; Supol Fongngam; Pongkawin Jungrungreangkit; Charnwit Wipoosiri; Sorawut Nuengjamnong; Nirote Sunthornleka; Phai Lik; Samphan Mayusoh; Samrit Thaensap; Surachart Sribusakorn; Nipan Sirithorn; Prapaporn Asavahame; and Sakoltee Phattiyakul, the deputy Bangkok governor.
However, no members attached to the previous leadership were voted back to the executive board. They are Mr Uttama and Mr Sontirat and six other PPRP members close to them; Suvit Meksincee, the higher education, science, research and innovation minister; Korbsak Futrakul, a former prime minister's office minister; Pornchai Trakulvaranont, Vichian Chavalit, Chuan Choojan and Santi Keeranant.
Their fate in the party was thought to have been decided when the majority of executives quit the board last month to force a leadership change in an apparent manoeuvre paving the way for Gen Prawit to take over the top seat. Mr Uttama was unpopular with many party MPs who chastised him for being aloof and distant.
At Saturday's assembly, which Gen Prawit did not attend, no deputy leaders were chosen. They will be selected later.
Gen Prawit later spoke remotely to party members, thanking them for their support. He urged members to forge solidarity. The ruling party has been rocked by what some critics described as a power struggle over its leadership and executive posts.
He also asked them to work hard on the ground and take care of constituents.
Meanwhile, Mr Uttama said after the assembly he would continue to work with the party despite the lack of a management role.
He added it was also up to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha whether he will keep the finance portfolio in a cabinet reshuffle tipped to take place in the coming weeks after a parliamentary debate of the budget bill. However, Mr Uttama declined to say whether he will relinquish his PPRP membership.
Mr Sontirat said he would stick with with the PPRP, after reporters asked whether he planned to leave the PPRP to form his own political party.