Will the PM dissolve the House?
Academic picks coalition partners will also stick togeher, despite differences
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has said many times that he does not have any intention of dissolving the House of Representatives before two organic laws related to the election system are amended, and he intends to remain in his job to host the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) Summit 2022. He has also vowed to complete his term.
Nevertheless, as one political expert who spoke to the Bangkok Post recently believes, questions remain over a number of political conundrums expected this year.
What might prompt the PM to dissolve the House?
According to Assoc Prof Dr Jade Donavanik, former adviser to the Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) and Dean of the Faculty of Law at Dhurakij Pundit University, it is likely Gen Prayut will choose not to dissolve the House as there would be little gain in doing so.
"The House is usually dissolved because either the government holds a political edge ahead of an upcoming election or because it lacks stability and cannot maintain its majority. At present neither of these are true," said Mr Jade.
Mr Jade's view is that it is of paramount importance to the premier that he complete his four-year term to "defeat" Thaksin Shinawatra, brother of the leader he deposed and a former leader and populist magnet himself. "Critics will get at him if he can't complete his term despite seizing power," Mr Jade says.
With a constitutional cap of eight years, how should the PM's tenure be calculated?
There are three dates in particular when Gen Prayut's tenure could be argued to expire, says the lawyer; in August this year if the count started in 2014 when he was made prime minister after the coup; in 2025, eight years after the current charter was promulgated in 2017; or in 2027, if one only counts his time spent as a democratically elected leader.
"It is up to the Constitutional Court to decide."
In his view, Gen Prayut's term begun in 2014 based on provisional clauses included in the 2017 charter which differ from those of the previous 2007 document.
The 2017 charter said the cabinet which served before its promulgation would be serving in a continuance of its term afterwards, rather than starting anew. If the premiership is regarded similarly, Gen Prayut's full term would end in August.
Mr Jade said that any court ruling that favours the prime minister's belief that he can stay until 2027 would trigger accusations of collusion.
What about government stability?
"The relationship is rocky but not collapsing. Despite all the bickering and conflicts that cannot be reconciled, the coalition remain united in their desire to retain their grip on power," Mr Jade said.
At the end of the day, most in the coalition will be prepared to put aside their differences in return for another four-year mandate.
However, there is one factor which could undermine any smooth transition to a second term, and that is the possibility of Gen Prayut and his supporters splintering away from the Palang Pracharath Party to form a new outfit and luring senior politicians from other parties like Pheu Thai, bigwigs in the public sector and military top brass to join them.
"That is when significant political change would occur," according to Mr Jade.
What about other parties and the situation as a whole?
Coalition government partners will try to negotiate and test the waters as they ponder making bids of their own, but they seem to be on the same page that it is better to stick with each other at the moment, he said.
"But that would soon change if the PPRP and the Pheu Thai Party reach an agreement which would allow Gen Prayut to stay on in exchange for positions of its own within the government," he added.