Senate Speaker Pornpetch Wichitcholchai has denied having instructed senators on who to vote for in the prime ministerial poll, adding that the Move Forward Party (MFP) has not approached him to support its leader Pita Limjaroenrat becoming premier yet.
Mr Pornpetch on Tuesday downplayed reports of MFP supporters pressuring senators into backing Mr Pita’s prime ministerial bid, saying the pressure only came from social media. He said he had never instructed senators on how they should vote in the poll and that the MFP had not sent anyone to ask him to persuade senators to vote for Mr Pita.
Mr Pornpetch said he only serves as the deputy parliament president, so he is in no position to give any instructions to senators.
The House Speaker assumes the role of ex-officio parliament president, while the Senate Speaker serves as the ex-officio deputy.
He added that he has not even discussed the PM vote with other senators, saying he believed the senators were mature enough to make their own decisions and had the country’s best interests at heart.
“The senators are independent and have their own opinions. But being independent does not mean they will do anything at will.
“They must take into account the country’s best interests. I believe they will put the country first,” Mr Pornpetch said.
He also said that he is ready to work with a new prime minister and that the new premier should have what it takes to lead the country.
Asked about a plan by MFP supporters to hold a rally outside parliament to pressure senators into voting for Mr Pita, Mr Pornpetch said the senators still have two months or so to make a decision. First, the Election Commission will have to officially endorse winning election candidates before the House of Representatives convenes to select a new prime minister.
Under the constitution, the 250 senators appointed by the now-defunct coup-engineer, the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), are allowed to join MPs in electing a prime minister in parliament. It will be the last time these senators will co-elect a prime minister. After the 2019 election, they joined MPs in voting for Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha to return as prime minister.
The constitution stipulates the Senate would serve a five-year transitional term following the 2019 election. It ends next year.