UTN set to back Pheu Thai

UTN set to back Pheu Thai

Denies bargaining for energy portfolio

"If the division of tasks and talks on the allocation of ministerial posts are not finished, how can we join?" — Wittaya Kaewparadai, Deputy UTN leader

The United Thai Nation (UTN) Party has agreed to join a coalition led by the Pheu Thai Party. However, it denies bargaining for the energy portfolio amid a report that prospective coalition allies are wrangling over cabinet posts ahead of the next prime ministerial vote.

Akradech Wongpituchroj, a UTN MP for Ratchaburi and party spokesman, said that the party has agreed to take part in the Pheu Thai-led coalition on condition that Section 112 of the Criminal Code, known as the lese majeste law, remains intact.

Pheu Thai also confirmed that the Move Forward Party (MFP), which seeks to amend the law, will not be part of the coalition, Mr Akradech said.

He denied a report that the UTN bargained for the energy portfolio with Pheu Thai.

He said that before the next PM vote, UTN key figures will meet other prospective coalition allies for talks on the formation of a Pheu Thai-led government.

"All of our 36 MPs are ready to vote for Pheu Thai's prime ministerial candidate," Mr Akradech said. "We want to foster unity and see a new government formed as quickly as possible."

UTN leader, Pirapan Salirathavibhaga, posted on Facebook that he and party secretary-general Akanat Promphan were contacted by Pheu Thai on Thursday to discuss the formation of a new government.

"Both sides agreed that it is time to restore unity and work together to steer the country towards peace and achieve sustainable development," he wrote. "The UTN did not bargain for anything. We only hope to work together in the country's best interests."

According to sources, the Pheu Thai Party and its prospective coalition allies are still wrangling over cabinet posts ahead of the next prime ministerial vote scheduled for Tuesday.

The UTN has called on Pheu Thai to finish the allocation of cabinet seats among coalition allies before the next PM vote.

Earlier Thursday, deputy UTN leader, Wittaya Kaewparadai, said the party has no problem working with Pheu Thai if it can agree to meet UTN's conditions.

He said that before a new government can be formed, policies from prospective coalition allies must be discussed thoroughly to ensure they are acceptable to coalition partners, while government tasks must be clearly divided among coalition partners.

"If the division of tasks and talks on the allocation of ministerial posts are not finished, how can we join?" he asked.

He went on to say that Pheu Thai must bring its coalition allies together before Monday or Tuesday; otherwise, the political circumstances may change.

"If any of Pheu Thai's three PM candidates fail to win endorsement from parliament to become the next prime minister, the third-largest party will have a chance," he said, referring to the Bhumjaithai Party.

The next round of voting for a prime minister comes after the Constitutional Court on Wednesday dismissed an Ombudsman petition seeking the court's ruling on whether the rejected renomination of MFP leader Pita Limjaroenrat was constitutional.

In dismissing it, the court said the three petitioners were not directly affected by parliament's decision, meaning it was rejected.

The complainants were Pornchai Theppanya and Boonsong Chalaythorn, who both voted for the MFP on May 14. The other was MFP MP Panyarut Nuntapusitanon.

The court's unanimous decision is seen as clearing the way for the process of selecting a new prime minister to proceed. The selection was on hold pending the court's ruling on parliament's decision on July 19 to reject Mr Pita's renomination.

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