Ex-FFP MPs likely to 'take over' little-known party

Ex-FFP MPs likely to 'take over' little-known party

EC approves decision by party set up in 2014 to rename itself Kao Klai ('Leap Forward')

List MP Pita Limjaroenrat, who is touted to lead the remaining MPs of the former Future Forward Party, speaks at Parliament on Feb 24. (Photo by Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)
List MP Pita Limjaroenrat, who is touted to lead the remaining MPs of the former Future Forward Party, speaks at Parliament on Feb 24. (Photo by Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)

A little-known political party with no MPs will likely be the new home of the 55 remaining MPs of the disbanded Future Forward Party (FFP) after it changed its name to one that matches a moniker floated by the former progressive party.

The Election Commission (EC) announced that the Phueng Luang Party had changed its name to Kao Klai (“Leap Forward” in Thai).

The commission had verified that Pueng Luang had held a meeting to vote on the change of its name and executives in line with its regulations so the EC had approved the move, said ๋arungvith Phumma, the EC secretary-general and party registrar.

“The change will be published in the Royal Gazette but FFP members may apply to join the party right away since a name change takes effect as soon as a general meeting approves it,” he said on Friday. 

Since FFP was disbanded by a Constitutional Court ruling on Feb 21, its supporters have been suggesting names for the new party. The three finalists appear to be Kao Klai, Thai Tao Tiam (Equal Thais) and Anakhot Thai (Thai Future).

Consequently, the EC announcement has caught the attention of observers, who speculate the small party could be the new home of FFP MPs. Some suggest it was a “takeover and rebranding” bid by the party founded by billionaire Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit.

However, none of the MPs has confirmed the speculation. A briefing to announce their next move is scheduled for Sunday.

Phueng Laung, formerly known as Ruam Pattana Chartthai, was registered in May 2014. With four branches, it has 2,690 members and provincial representatives in 13 constituencies.

Rachane Tiyawattacharong is listed as the party leader and Peemai Ratcwongsa is secretary-general and acting party leader.

If the FFP MPs join the party, it would likely call a general meeting to choose new executives, including the party leader.

List MP Pita Limjaroenrat is touted as the new leader after Mr Thanathorn was banned from politics for 10 years by the Constitutional Court for lending 191 million baht to the party.

While the FFP MPs can set up a new party, doing so would put them at the mercy of the EC, which can take as long as it needs to approve the request. Its treatment of the party over the past year offers little hope that a decision would be arrived at quickly.

If the EC fails to give its approval within 60 days, the 55 MPs will either have join existing parties or lose their status under the Political Parties Act, which requires MPs of disbanded parties join a new one within that period.

FFP was 16 months and 18 days old on the day it was dissolved. With 6.3 million votes in the March 24 election last year, it was the country’s third-largest party and on course for 88 MPs. 

But it ended up with 81 MPs after the EC changed the party-list calculation formula to give more seats to microparties, all of which joined the governing coalition. By the time it was dissolved, FFP had 77 MPs, 61,864 members and 13.8 million baht in membership fees, according to data posted on its Facebook page.

It remains unclear how many former FFP MPs will join Kao Klai after the party was dissolved because they still have until April 21 to make a decision. But judging from how they voted in the no-confidence debate, the last before the House closed its session, it may be left with 55 MPs.

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