Prawit leadership 'strengthens PPRP unity'

Prawit leadership 'strengthens PPRP unity'

Analysis: Appointment as party boss tipped to end rivalry over cabinet posts

Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon, second right, speaks to reporters at Government House about media reports that he has agreed to become the leader of the Palang Pracharath Party. (Photo by Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)
Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon, second right, speaks to reporters at Government House about media reports that he has agreed to become the leader of the Palang Pracharath Party. (Photo by Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)

Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon taking the helm of the ruling Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) is being seen as a way of strengthening unity within the main coalition party plagued by factional conflicts, and to guarantee the government will stay in power longer.

Gen Prawit is still respected by the military top brass and maintains good ties with all political parties. This should ensure unity within the PPRP and the stability of the coalition government, political observers noted.

Gen Prawit said on Tuesday he would accept the leadership of the PPRP.

Government House reporters asked him to confirm Monday's news report that he had agreed to become the new leader of the core coalition party. He said the new position was not announced right away and was pending an election by party members.

The party will hold a general assembly on Saturday to elect a new executive committee after 18 of the 34 members resigned on June 1 -- a move which was intended to pave the way for Gen Prawit to become the new leader, replacing Uttama Savanayana, who had held the position for almost two years.

Mr Uttama is also finance minister, and he is now the acting party leader pending the election of the party's new executive committee.

Gen Prawit said on Tuesday he would have to resolve disputes in the party.

"They must be reconciled," Gen Prawit said. He did not say how long he would be in the role.

On Monday, chief government whip Wirat Rattanaset said Gen Prawit had agreed to head up the party.

Gen Prawit accepted the invitation at the offices of the Five Provinces Bordering Forest Preservation Project (East Region) at the base of the 1st Infantry Regiment, King's Guards on Vibhavadi Rangsit Road in Bangkok.

The invitation was delivered by Mr Wirat, along with PPRP heavyweights who included Industry Minister Suriya Jungrungreangkit, Justice Minister Somsak Thepsutin, Education Minister Nataphol Teepsuwan, Deputy Finance Minister Santi Promphat, Digital Economy and Society Minister Buddhipongse Punnakanta and Deputy Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Thamanat Prompow.

Gen Prawit's appointment as PPRP leader is expected to help end the power struggle brewing within the core coalition party over cabinet seats. Once the party situation improves, a reshuffle is expected to take place.

Somjai Phagaphasvivat, an independent academic on economics and political science, told the Bangkok Post on Tuesday that Gen Prawit's decision to become the PPRP leader is confirmation that he is already the de-facto leader who will have to patch up internal squabbles.

This in turn will enable Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to focus more on running governmental affairs without having to worry about the quarrels among the PPRP's factions over reallocation of ministerial positions, Mr Somjai said.

However, he noted that Gen Prayut will still have to deal with other tough challenges lying ahead, particularly the post-Covid-19 economy. Gen Prayut is still struggling to find a finance minister who is up to the task of solving the economic woes caused by the pandemic, Mr Somjai said.

Stithorn Thananithichote, director of the Research and Development Office at King Prajadhipok's Institute, said that Gen Prawit taking the PPRP's leadership should yield positive results for the party as he has the clout to maintain unity.

"Gen Prawit has taken good care of all party members all along. But as he will now become party leader officially, there is no need for him to pander to those who are fighting for benefits and positions, which has dealt a blow to the government's image," Mr Stithorn said.

However, Jade Donavanik, a legal expert and former adviser to the Constitution Drafting Committee, told the Bangkok Post that Gen Prawit's decision to take the helm at the PPRP will not help with the government's image.

With his clout within the PPRP, Gen Prawit has looked after members of all factions within the party, and acts as a broker when it comes to negotiations over reallocation of cabinet seats.

As a result, people not qualified were still given cabinet seats, Mr Jade said, adding that Gen Prawit's leadership of the PPRP could also lead to a clash with Gen Prayut over reallocation of ministerial positions.

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