Activists seek to bring senators onside

Activists seek to bring senators onside

Peaceful rally staged to ask senators to respect electoral mandate and choose Pita as PM

Demonstrators gather in front of the Parliament buildings in Bangkok’s Kiak Kai area on Tuesday evening to send a message to senators not to vote against the people’s wishes. (Photo: Nutthawat Wichieanbut)
Demonstrators gather in front of the Parliament buildings in Bangkok’s Kiak Kai area on Tuesday evening to send a message to senators not to vote against the people’s wishes. (Photo: Nutthawat Wichieanbut)

Pro-democracy activists gathered in front of the Parliament building on Tuesday evening to send a strong message to 250 appointed senators not to vote against the massive electoral mandate delivered by the people.

People began converging on the Kiak Kai area at 5pm to join the activity, organised by the United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration, which proclaimed “Senators must not act against the people’s resolution”.

Organisers had stressed in a statement issued on Monday that they did not want to see any confrontations: “[The event] will focus primarily on dialogue, not intended to pressure, violate the conduct of senators or push for a tense situation in any way.” 

The Senate was holding a special session at the Parliament complex on Tuesday, ostensibly to discuss some appointments to state agencies. But sources said earlier that some wanted to discuss how the appointed body should proceed in light of the May 14 election results.

Activists stressed that senators must respect the people’s choice for the Move Forward Party (MFP) to form a government with its leader Pita Limjaroenrat as prime minister. They praised senators who announced that they would vote for Mr Pita. However, some senators who see Move Forward as too radical have openly said they would vote against him.

Move Forward leads an eight-party coalition with 313 members, but it will need 376 votes when the House and Senate jointly convene to vote for the prime minister, expected to take place in early August

In other words, they will need the support of at least 63 senators. Informal surveys so far suggest that about 20 senators are planning to back Mr Pita.

The demonstrators also said that senators who wanted to abstain were not being politically neutral, but seeking to block Mr Pita’s path to the prime ministership.

The group said they wanted to send a message to senators who had not yet decided how to vote to respect the people’s massive poll mandate. But they insisted they had no intention to put pressure on senators.

Constitutionally, to become prime minister, it is essential to secure more than half of the affirmative votes from both houses, which amounts to a minimum of 376 votes. It is important to note that abstentions and absences are considered as votes against the candidate.

Any potential prime ministerial candidate must garner the support of at least 63 senators. According to informal surveys, some 20 senators are currently inclined to endorse Mr Pita. However, the demonstrators have expressed their belief that senators intending to abstain are not acting in a politically neutral manner but rather attempting to impede Mr Pita's path to becoming the prime minister.

Organisers had obtained permission for the use of the venue for their activity, and police made sure to keep them well away from the Parliament building itself. The few dozen participants who showed up around 5pm seemed to be outnumbered by reporters and photographers, but the crowd gradually grew to about 300.

“We just want them to respect the people’s will,” said one of the speakers at the rally, activist Patsaravalee “Mind” Tanakitvibulpon.

“This is their chance to show that they respect democratic principles,” she added.

The event went ahead peacefully and most people dispersed at 8.25pm.

Pro-democracy activists gather in front of Parliament in the Kiak Kai area on Tuesday evening. (Photo: Nutthawat Wichieanbut)

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