PM vows time for defections
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PM vows time for defections

New wave of party swaps are expected

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha gave assurances on Wednesday that politicians would have enough time to swap political parties ahead of Feb 7, the last day of permitted party swapping, if the House completes its term on March 23.

Gen Prayut was responding to reporters' questions about if he would dissolve the House or let it run its course, saying he would not make it difficult for potential election candidates seeking to switch parties.

Politicians are required to be members of a political party for at least 90 days prior to the election date to qualify to stand as MP candidates for that party.

The Election Commission has announced a May 7 election if the House of Representatives completes its term on March 23. In such a case, Feb 7 is the last day potential election candidates can switch parties.

But in the case of a House dissolution, politicians are required to join a party to qualify as election candidates at least 30 days before election day.

Gen Prayut, who officially joined the United Thai Nation (UTN) Party on Monday, appeared reluctant to discuss his political activities with the party when asked by reporters about allocating his time for the election campaign.

"As the prime minister, I'm being extremely careful. I'll carry on with my prime ministerial duties. As for the party's activities, there's an executive committee in charge," he said.

He brushed off questions about any political rivalry between himself and Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) leader Gen Prawit Wongsuwon since they parted ways.

In joining the UTN, Gen Prayut is seen as the party's prime ministerial candidate who will go head to head with Gen Prawit, the PPRP's sole prime ministerial candidate.

"What does it have anything to do with him [Gen Prawit]?" he said when asked if the competition made him feel uncomfortable.

Gen Prayut said he and Gen Prawit never had any conflict as he reaffirmed they had a good understanding and that their relationship and politics were separate matters.

On Tuesday, Gen Prawit, also a deputy prime minister, said his fraternal bond with Gen Prayut remained as strong as ever despite the latter breaking away from the PPRP to join the UTN.

"It's still the same between us. Nothing has changed," Gen Prawit said.

Asked about his confidence in the UTN's chance of winning the required 25 seats to be able to nominate a prime minister, Gen Prayut said he could not predict the election outcome, which he said would be decided by voters.

The prime minister also said it was too early to discuss a post-election alliance, saying it would be addressed when the time was right.

Meanwhile, the UTN is considering holding activities in the provinces to allow party members and supporters to meet Gen Prayut, said UTN secretary-general Akanat Promphan.

He said the party executive committee would be asked to consider the format of such activities, which will include presenting the party's manifesto and its election candidates.

Mr Akanat was coy about speculation that more than 40 MPs would move to the UTN but said the public could expect the party to introduce new members, many of whom are considered political heavyweights.

Assoc Prof Pornamarin Phromkert, a lecturer at Khon Kaen University's humanities and social sciences faculty, said Gen Prayut's days are long gone, and he will not be re-elected as prime minister.

Labelling the UTN as a "conservative camp", he said the party would capture around 20-25 seats while the other camp he described as "liberal" would win around 60% of the 500 seats.

Assoc Prof Pornamarin also discussed possibilities for the next government, saying it would be either the current coalition government reuniting or the Pheu Thai-led camp running the country.

However, he said Pheu Thai might join hands with the PPRP in a "special deal" in which Gen Prayut would be kept from the premier post.

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