Some senators 'won't vote for Ung-Ing'

Some senators 'won't vote for Ung-Ing'

Appointed senator says PM must possess leadership qualities and be accepted by all

Paetongtarn Shinawatra, centre, poses with party leader Cholnan Srikaew, left, and Nattawut Saikuar, right, during their campaign tour of Chiang Mai in September (Photo: Pheu Thai Party)
Paetongtarn Shinawatra, centre, poses with party leader Cholnan Srikaew, left, and Nattawut Saikuar, right, during their campaign tour of Chiang Mai in September (Photo: Pheu Thai Party)

Senator Wanchai Sornsiri says a group of senators, including himself, will not vote for Paetongtarn "Ung-Ing" Shinawatra of the Pheu Thai Party to become the next prime minister.

The appointed senator on Saturday posted a message on his Facebook page saying, "250 MPs or senators, who will make a landside win?" He was referring to the vote for a prime minister in parliament.

Ms Paetongtarn, the youngest daughter of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and Pheu Thai’s chief adviser on public participation and innovation, has vowed to lead the main opposition party to a landslide victory in the next general election, scheduled to take place on May 7.

Pheu Thai reasons that if it can secure a majority of the 500 House seats, then its choice for prime minister must be respected by the Senate.

According to Mr Wanchai, any party with more than half of all MPs should be the core party to form a government, and both MPs and senators had agreed in this principle.

But the selection of the prime minister was important as the person must possess leadership and gain acceptance from the parliament and the entire nation, he added.

“The prime minister's post is not a toy for anyone or any clan," Mr Wanchai wrote, in a veiled reference to the Shinawatra family that has already produced two prime ministers.

"The prime minister is a symbol of pride for the entire nation, and it's not right to make anyone prime minister like what happened in the past.

"It’s a slap in the face for Thais and parliamentarians.’’

Mr Wanchai shrugged off a move by Pheu Thai to secure a landside win in the upcoming election as announced in party campaigns by Ms Paetongtarn.

“I’ve clearly seen and heard that Pheu Thai will make a landside win, and it will select Ung-Ing as its prime minister. This is Pheu Thai's matter, but my group and my allies will not vote for her. So, if Ung-Ing wants to be the prime minister, Pheu Thai must garner 376 votes (from 750 MPs and senators) and all of those votes must accept her.

“If the party is unable to achieve 376 votes, Ung-Ing’s path to be the next prime minister will grow dim," warned the senator. 

His comment was not an insult, but it was real politics, he wrote.

Ms Paetongtarn's father Thaksin and aunt Yingluck Shinawatra both led popularly elected governments toppled in coups. Ms Paetongtarn, 36, has been a popular choice for the prime minister's post in several opinion polls.

Discussing Pheu Thai’s pledge to secure at least 250 of the 500 seats in the upcoming election to ensure a House majority, Mr Wanchai warned the party that the Senate still has significant power.

Wanchai Sornsiri and other senators attend a jont parliament session in June 2019 during the vote for the prime minister. All 249 of them (the speaker did not cast a vote) voted for Prayut Chan-o-cha. (File photo Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)

“Be careful, 250 senators will bounce back by a landslide. Then, you may have to pray at Wat Kai Tia in Taling Chan,’’ wrote the lawyer-turned-senator.

The 250 members of the Senate were hand-picked by the coup-engineering National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), which is now defunct. Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha was chief of the council, which overthrew the Pheu Thai-led administration in 2014. 

Gen Prayut is now the prime ministerial candidate of the United Thai Nation (UTN) Party, while the ruling Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) nominated its party leader and Deputy Prime Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwon for prime minister.

Just last month there were rumours that some senators were considering seeking to amend the constitution to help Gen Prayut stay on in power. At the time, Mr Wanchai declared on Facebook: “The report about senators amending the charter to help Gen Prayut is intended to discredit the Senate. It is political nitpicking.

“Senators have already concluded that any party that wins a majority of House seats should lead the government and senators should support the person [nominated as a PM candidate] in line with the people’s.  mandate,” he added.

Mr Wanchai has also floated the idea of a three-party coalition featuring Pheu Thai, Bhumjaithai and Palang Pracharath.

He said PPRP leader Gen Prawit could work with any political camp, so it was possible his party might join hands with the equally flexible Bhumjaithai to work with Pheu Thai.

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