When 312 can equal zero
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When 312 can equal zero

ABOUT POLITICS: Jatuporn Prompan doubts if the MFP can form a govt, which he says will keep Prayut in power longer | Press conference question to Pheu Thai leader Cholnan Srikaew could have ramifications for TST if Move Forward coalition bid fails

Jatuporn: 'MFP barking up wrong tree'
Jatuporn: 'MFP barking up wrong tree'

Mathematics can be tricky, especially when 312 could equate to zero in the world of politics, according to veteran politician and political critic Jatuporn Prompan.

In one of his regular talk shows, the red-shirt United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) chairman was decidedly blunt in his assessment of the Move Forward Party-led alliance's chances of forming a new government.

Mr Jatuporn also said the longer the alliance takes to construct a government, the longer Prayut Chan-o-cha's administration will stay in power.

He said the bloc has a near-zero chance of making it to Government House with 312 MPs behind it. The alliance must do everything in its power to reach out to other parties and even to the Senate for support in order for Move Forward Party (MFP) leader Pita Limjaroenrat to clinch parliament's endorsement to become the next prime minister.

Mr Pita needs at least 376 votes from MPs alone or both MPs and senators to become premier, a formidable if not impossible feat, according to Mr Jatuporn.

"Where on earth does the alliance think it is going to get the additional 60-plus votes from?" he said.

The alliance, led by the 151-seat MFP, also consists of Pheu Thai, the second largest party with 141 MPs, and six small and micro parties.

The MFP earlier admitted to having courted the Chartpattanakla Party, which won two seats, only to announce hours later that it had cancelled talks.

That came about as the MFP apparently caved into pressure from supporters who swamped Twitter with the hashtag "Mee Korn Mai Mee Ku".

The supporters gave an explicit message: "If you have Korn, you can't have me." It was trending on Thai-language Twitter, and a meeting of prospective MFP MPs also expressed a similar view.

Opposition to Chartpattanakla stemmed from its leader Korn Chatikavanij, who participated in the seven-month-long Bangkok Shutdown and anti-Yingluck Shinawatra protests that culminated in the military coup that toppled the Pheu Thai-led administration on May 22, 2014.

Mr Korn, a former deputy leader of the Democrat Party, also voted in favour of having Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, the coup leader at the time, as prime minister.

The MFP's move to drop Chartpattanakla from the proposed coalition line-up may have averted a backlash from supporters. However, it also illustrates the MFP's aptness to being dictated to by supporters, which raises fears of government policy being frequently swayed and unpredictable, fuelling uncertainty.

On learning of Chartpattanakla being ditched, Mr Jatuporn said the alliance had about run out of choices to draw backing for Mr Pita's prime ministerial bid.

He downplayed the MFP's reported effort to lobby some senators. Mr Jatuporn suggested it was unimaginable to approach anyone hoping they will have the goodwill to work for a smooth transition of government. The UDD chairman said the MFP was simply barking up the wrong tree.

Mr Jatuporn said the senators were hand-picked by the 2014 coup engineer as a crucial component of the constitution drawn up following the military takeover. The charter architect had woven into the supreme law an iron-clad stipulation that the Senate co-elect a prime minister in case MPs couldn't do so on their own.

The charter was designed so that if the Prayut administration failed to secure power, then no one else would easily replace it, according to Mr Jatuporn.

The path to the premiership is strewn with obstacles if the largest party does not have an outright majority in the Lower House, or at least 250 seats.

By teaming up with seven other parties, the MFP may have past the majority threshold in the 500-seat House of Representatives. However, the alliance has its work cut out as it struggles to achieve a needed majority in both Houses to get Mr Pita endorsed as prime minister.

Despite more than a dozen senators declaring themselves ready to support Mr Pita to preserve democracy, the number still falls way short of the 376 threshold, Mr Jatuporn said.

He said the 312 votes the alliance currently has will probably not increase much further. Although some politicians in the Democrat Party, which is not an alliance member, have insisted the party should vote for Mr Pita in keeping with democracy and staving off a feared political deadlock, their number is negligibly small.

Mr Jatuporn also dismissed speculation the Democrats might be offered a place in the coalition, saying the party would definitely become "extinct" if it accepted, as its supporters are not on the same page with the MFP or Pheu Thai.

Despite the memorandum of understanding (MoU) having been formalised, which binds the alliance to form a government with tentative issues to address, there is no escaping the fact that its 312 votes equates to zero in terms of it putting a government together.

The UDD chairman warned that lingering certainty means Prayut's government continues to enjoy running the country and there is no limit set by the constitution as to how long a government can remain in an interim capacity.

Hey! I was only asking

A recent spat between Pheu Thai leader, Cholnan Srikaew, and Thai Sang Thai (TST) prime ministerial candidate, Sita Divari, is calling into question the future of the TST if the Move Forward Party (MFP) fails to establish a coalition government.

Sita: Upset Pheu Thai chief with query

Tensions between them flared after Sqn Ldr Sita directed a question at the Pheu Thai leader during a press conference. He asked if it was possible to have what he called an "advance MoU" to bind all pro-democracy parties together, regardless of them being in the opposition or government bloc.

Sqn Ldr Sita, who was sat among reporters, popped the question during a Q&A session after the signing of the May 22 memorandum of understanding (MoU). The question was put to the MFP and Pheu Thai, which have a combined total of 292 House seats.

In what was seen as dodging the question, Dr Cholnan said Pheu Thai positions itself as a pro-democracy party and would fulfil its mission set by its supporters.

However, the next day the Pheu Thai leader called Sqn Ldr Sita's question inappropriate before proceeding to remind him that he was not a reporter who should be hounding fellow pro-democracy parties with a question that put them on the spot.

Sqn Ldr Sita reacted to the criticism on his Facebook and made the matter worse.

"After the press conference, we had dinner and drinks together in an amicable atmosphere. There was no pressing or explaining from us. I don't know if Dr Cholnan was rebuked or 'briefed' by someone, prompting him to say [the question] was out of line and have the [TST] leader lecture me," Sqn Ldr Sita wrote on his Facebook.

Dr Cholnan, who was clearly upset, said that Sqn Ldr Sita's comments put him, as Pheu Thai leader, in an awkward position. He was quoted as saying: "If I could punch him, I would."

He also asked all the leaders of the eight parties not to allow trivial matters affect their work. Sqn Ldr Sita later posted an apology and even offered to resign from the party if he was considered an obstacle to TST participating in an MFP-led coalition.

According to observers, Sqn Ldr Sita's request for an advance MoU was to seek a guarantee that the MFP would be the main party in forming a coalition government and the TST would be included in it.

Despite the eight parties having signed an MoU committing themselves to a coalition line-up, setting up seven working panels to address key issues and forming a team to prepare for a transition of power, observers say it is hard to see an MFP-led government happening.

The eight-party alliance must collect votes from the Senate to secure MFP leader Pita Limjaroenrat's bid to become prime minister. Due to the party's highly controversial policies, the MFP has a lot of work to do to convince another 64 MPs and senators to support Mr Pita.

Mr Pita, however, faces an uncertain future after Ruangkrai Leekitwattana, a former Palang Pracharath Party election candidate, petitioned the Election Commission (EC) about Mr Pita's eligibility as an election candidate. The MFP leader reportedly owns shares in a media company in violation of the constitution which prohibits owners or shareholders of media firms from running for a House seat.

The MFP and Pheu Thai are also locking horns over who should have the House Speaker role, giving the impression they will never reach an agreement, leading to the collapse of their alliance.

If the MFP is unable to set up a coalition because of any of these reasons, the Pheu Thai Party, as the first runner-up in the election, will then have an opportunity to form its own coalition.

If that is the case, it is highly likely that a Pheu Thai-led coalition will be without the TST led by Khunying Sudarat Keyuraphan, who left Pheu Thai in 2020 amid speculation that she did not get along with its executive board.

A source in Pheu Thai said it would be hard for Khunying Sudarat and these Pheu Thai figures to reconcile and that Sqn Ldr Sita must have sensed it and had tried to keep the fragile MFP-led alliance from breaking up.

"His remarks about Dr Cholnan being 'briefed' [by someone influential outside the Pheu Thai Party] are a reference to Thaksin [Shinawatra, who is widely respected by Pheu Thai members]. So, his party will definitely be out [if Pheu Thai forms a coalition]," said the source.

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