Prawit backs Prayut to keep job
DPM refuses to rule himself out either
Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon on Tuesday backed Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to survive the legal dispute over the eight-year limit on his premiership and carry on in the role for two more years.
He said he also expects Gen Prayut to be nominated as a Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) candidate for prime minister for a second time.
Speaking at Government House on Tuesday, Gen Prawit, who also serves as PPRP leader, said that he was ready to once again nominate Gen Prayut as the prime ministerial candidate of the ruling party. However, he would not refuse outright if party members wanted to nominate him instead.
Section 158 of the constitution limits the term of a prime minister to eight years, but people are divided as to when Gen Prayut's term officially began.
Last Friday, activist Srisuwan Janya asked the Office of the Ombudsman and the Election Commission (EC) to seek a Constitutional Court interpretation of when Gen Prayut's eight-year tenure concludes.
He said the record should be set straight as there are three potential dates that have been bandied around by various groups.
Some believe it should be this month because the count started in 2014 when he first assumed the role of prime minister after the coup that year.
Another group claims his term should end in 2027 because he was appointed prime minister under the 2017 charter in June 2019. As a result, his eight-year limit would end in 2027.
According to another metric, the count started in April 2017 when the current charter was promulgated, meaning that Gen Prayut's tenure would end in 2025.
Gen Prayut on Tuesday refused to comment when asked by reporters at Government House about Gen Prawit's remarks that he could stay at the helm for two more years.
Labour Minister Suchart Chomklin said that Gen Prawit has always supported Gen Prayut to remain in office, although the Constitutional Court will have the final say on when his term must end.
Observers were quick to note that Gen Prawit's remarks show the government's confidence that Gen Prayut will survive the legal dispute.
If Gen Prawit is proved correct, then it would mean that Gen Prayut would not have to step down until 2025 at the earliest.
If the general election is held next year and the PPRP wins a majority of House seats and forms a government again, Gen Prayut is expected to return as premier.
While the new government has a four-year term, Gen Prayut could only serve as prime minister for only two years as his premiership would end in 2025 according to the interpretation mentioned above, observers said.
After that, parliament would have to choose a new prime minister to serve out the remaining two years of the government's tenure.
Observers also noted that since Gen Prawit had also refused to rule himself out of the running, party members might also nominate him as a prime ministerial candidate, and this would mean the PPRP nominating two candidates for prime minister -- Gen Prayut and Gen Prawit -- if they earn a majority in the next national election.
In light of this, there is also the possibility of Gen Prawit becoming prime minister after Gen Prayut's premiership ends in 2025, according to observers.
However, government sources have reported that Gen Prayut has already given the nod to Deputy Prime Minister and Bhumjaithai Party leader Anutin Charnvirakul, and would support Mr Anutin as his successor.
Mr Anutin said on Tuesday that he is still a subordinate of the prime minister and insisted that he is content in his role as a cabinet minister.
On Sunday, when asked by reporters who would be nominated as Bhumjaithai's prime ministerial candidate, Mr Anutin said that traditionally the party would only nominate its leader as a candidate for prime minister.