Move Forward Party deputy leader Sirikanya Tansakun has expressed confidence that the Pheu Thai Party will not pull out of the coalition amid a disagreement over the post of House Speaker that both parties want.
Ms Sirikanya reiterated on Thursday that it was necessary for Move Forward to take the post of House speaker. Aside from leading the executive branch, the party needs to lead the legislative branch to push 45 draft bills and other bills proposed by coalition partners during their election campaigns, said the 42-year-old economist.
With the post of speaker filled by Move Forward, she said she was confident the party would be able to pursue an agenda that includes amending the constitution. That would pave the way for drafting a new and properly democratic constitution, a priority item in the parties’ memorandum of understanding (MoU).
Move Forward and its seven allies — Pheu Thai, Prachachat, Thai Sang Thai, Seri Ruam Thai, Fair, Palang Sangkhom Mai and Peu Thai Rumphalang parties — signed the MoU on Monday as a guideline for the policies of the government they plan to form together.
The House Speaker is one of the most important roles in politics, overseeing House meetings and the agenda. If the MFP wants to push its legislative initiatives and fulfil its campaign promises, it needs to take control of the post, said Ms Sirikanya.
She shrugged off speculation that the rift over the post of speaker might cause Pheu Thai to pull out of the coalition, saying she believed the second-largest party realised how important it was not to dash people’s hopes for the new administration.
She also gave an assurance that her party would not stab any of its partners in the back, and welcomed talks of all issues of concern.
Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, secretary-general of the Progressive Movement and a key strategist in the election campaign, said on Tuesday that the post of House speaker is one that MFP “can’t afford to lose”.
Compromises are desirable in a coalition government but Move Forward should not consider giving the House speakership away, he said in a post on Facebook. (Story continues below)
Pheu Thai secretary-general Prasert Chantararuangthong (left) and party leader Cholnan Srikaew speak at a seminar for Pheu Thai MPs-elect at the party’s head office on Phetchaburi Road in Bangkok on Wednesday. (Photo: Varuth Hirunyatheb)
Feeling the pressure
Pheu Thai leader Cholnan Srikaew criticised the remarks made by Mr Piyabutr, saying they were an attempt to pressure prospective coalition partners.
Adisorn Piangket, a Pheu Thai MP-elect, said his party should get the speakership because it has more people suitable for the position than the MFP.
A source in Pheu Thai said the party was considering Dr Cholnan, Suchart Tancharoen and Wisut Chainaroon for the post, all of them veteran politicians with a deep understanding of how parliament works.
Pheu Thai secretary-general Prasert Chantararuangthong on Thursday reaffirmed that the party backed MFP leader Pita Limjaroenrat as prime minister. However, the post of House speaker was another matter.
“Pheu Thai confirmed its intention clearly from the beginning,” said Mr Prasert. “Now, we still affirm that we will back Mr Pita as prime minister as the MFP is the core party forming the government. Our stance remains unchanged. However, the post of House speaker is another matter and it is not in the MoU.”
If Move Forward had won more than half of the 500 House seats in the election, there would be no debate over the speaker’s post, he said. But Pheu Thai finished second in the race with just 10 House seats fewer than MFP.
All sides must hold talks to patch up their differences over the issue, he said.
Mr Prasert said he viewed Dr Cholnan, a six-time MP, suitable for the post as he was well-versed in House regulations.
One less seat
In a related development, the size of the Move Forward-led coalition has shrunk by one member, from 313 to 312, based on official results released on Thursday by the Election Commission.
A recalculation reduced Move Forward’s MP total from 152 to 151, while giving the opposition Bhumjaithai Party one more seat, bringing its total to 71.
Ms Sirikanya said the party was not worried about the change, but added that the faster the EC endorsed the poll results, the more quickly MFP and its partners could form the government.
Under the electoral law, the commission has 60 days from polling day, or until July 13, to deliver its final stamp of approval. But many observers say prolonged uncertainty about the results could be bad for the economy and confidence.
If there were no other problems, talks on the forming of the government with the prospective coalition parties would be concluded within two weeks, she said.
Ms Sirikanya is widely expected to be named finance minister in the new administration. When asked by reporters, she said she was ready to take the post if the party resolved and trusted her for the job.