The ongoing tussle between Move Forward and Pheu Thai — the nation’s two biggest parties — over who should hold the parliament president’s post is hardly surprising since both are not far apart in the number of seats they won in the polls, according to former parliament president Chuan Leekpai.
Each party is sticking to its demand to propose a candidate for the seat in a vote that is expected to be held on July 26, eight days before the new prime minister is elected in parliament.
The Move Forward Party (MFP) won 151 MP seats, just 10 more than Pheu Thai. Naturally, both feel they have a legitimate right to propose one of their own for the role of speaker of the House of representatives, who also serves as the parliament president.
More Forward has insisted that the tradition of having the head of the legislative branch come from the biggest party should be followed. The party has many draft laws ready that it wants to see pushed through for parliamentary debate with the help of the parliament president. Having someone in the chair from their own ranks would ensure this happens, according to the party.
On the other hand, Pheu Thai argues there should be some sort of trade-off. As Move Forward is set to land the prime ministerial post, the role of parliamentary president should be handed over to Pheu Thai.
The MFP is perceived as trying to secure the presidency in order to push its own legislative agenda. Nonetheless, critics say the parliament president should serve not just one agenda, but all parties.
Mr Chuan, also a former leader of the Democrat Party, said it was incorrect to assume the post of parliamentary president can be exploited for partisan interests.
A parliamentary president is also less powerful than before. For instance, the president can no longer nominate a prime ministerial candidate of their own choosing for royal endorsement; the president can only submit the name of a prime minister elected by parliament to be royally endorsed.
Generally, the head of the legislative branch must remain impartial in executing their duty. They must relinquish the role of being an executive of their political party before taking up the presidency, said Mr Chuan.
The parliamentary president must also be well-versed in law and parliament regulations. “They can’t do as they please or hold up a draft bill. There are rules they must abide by,” he said.
Mr Chuan, 84, also clarified that when he held the parliament presidency previously, it was not he but his deputy at the time, Suchart Tancharoen, who refused to put forward a draft bill to amend Section 112 of the Criminal Code — the lese-majeste law — for parliamentary debate, deeming it unconstitutional.
The draft bill, sponsored by Move Forward, was sent back to the party for review but went no further. Most people have come to blame Mr Chuan for not allowing a debate to go ahead.
Meanwhile, Pheu Thai leader Cholnan Srikaew said on Wednesday that the issue of who occupies the speaker’s chair would not drive a wedge between his party and MFP.
Dr Cholnan is reportedly one of three Pheu Thai senior members who might be considered for the parliament president role. Although Pheu Thai has not yet released any names, the other likely candidates are Mr Suchart and Chaturon Chaisaeng.