Pheu Thai mulls 'offshoot'

Pheu Thai mulls 'offshoot'

Govt denies swaying party-list MP vote

Pheu Thai leader Cholnan Srikaew. (Parliament photo)
Pheu Thai leader Cholnan Srikaew. (Parliament photo)

Pheu Thai will consider setting up a smaller political party as its offshoot to secure party-list seats in the next poll after parliament voted for a new method of calculating the seats, widely seen as a move to stop it winning a landslide victory.

Speaking after the vote, Pheu Thai leader Cholnan Srikaew said he was not worried because there were still many ways for the party to win party-list seats.

The party may resort to an election strategy known as taek bank pan (breaking a 1,000-baht note into smaller denominations) which involves setting up at least one small party to serve as an offshoot to support Pheu Thai in the next poll.

"Pheu Thai would only field candidates for constituency seats while its political offshoot would focus only on sending candidates for party-list seats," Dr Cholnan said.

While the party has not yet discussed the idea officially, Dr Cholnan said he was confident this method would help Pheu Thai and its offshoot win more than half of the House seats up for grabs in the next election.

He also noted that the Move Forward Party (MFP) would benefit from the calculation method, although smaller parties may not get the number of party-list seat numbers they seek because party-list seats will be reduced from 150 to 100 in the next poll.

On Wednesday night, a total of 354 MPs voted for the use of 500 to calculate party-list seats while 160 MPs voted for the use of 100.

The calculation method is part of the organic bill on the election of MPs which is being deliberated in its second reading by parliament.

Most of the 354 votes were from coalition parties -- Palang Pracharath, Bhumjaithai, the Democrats and six small coalition parties. They included 164 senators.

The question splitting lawmakers was whether 100 or 500 should be used to calculate the number of list MPs in the next polls.

The figure 100 derives from the total number of party-list MPs while 500 would include all of the constituency MPs as well.

Under the amended constitution, there would be 400 constituency MPs in the Lower House, up from the current 350, and 100 party-list MPs, down from 150, in the next poll.

While legal experts and some MPs and senators had argued against using the larger number, smaller parties and a growing number of legislators stood firm that this should be adopted.

Small parties would find it easier to win a list seat using that method. Based on voting figures from the 2019 general election, parties would have needed around 70,000 votes to win a list seat under that model.

However, if 100 had been used instead, a party would have had to capture at least 350,000 votes.

The Pheu Thai Party has been a staunch supporter of the smaller number as it was confident of capturing many of the 100 seats up for grabs in the party-list system.

Other large parties including the PPRP and the Democrats, a coalition member, also previously backed the use of 100 seats.

However, coalition parties made an about-turn and agreed to support the use of 500 instead.

Dr Cholnan on Thursday slammed the vote on the calculation method, saying it was disgraceful and would damage the parliamentary system.

He said that if the bill on the election of MPs is endorsed by parliament in the third reading, it will be forwarded for consideration by the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court and the Election Commission (EC) as required by parliamentary regulations.

Dr Cholnan also accused coalition MPs who voted for the calculation method of acting on the orders of those in power.

The party will ask the National Anti-Corruption Commission to consider whether those MPs violated the constitution and the ethical code for politicians, Dr Cholnan said.

The issue will be included as a topic for the censure debate against the government, he said.

Government spokesman Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana on Thursday dismissed a claim by Pheu Thai that Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha instructed coalition MPs to vote for the calculation method.

Pheu Thai should respect the majority vote in parliament, Mr Thanakorn added.

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