The new House speaker has said he is not certain how many times the vote for prime minister can be repeated if Move Forward Party leader Pita Limjaroenrat does not receive the required support on the first try.
Wan Muhamad Noor Matha said before being elected to the speaker’s post on Tuesday that the eight coalition allies would support Mr Pita but if he does not receive a majority vote from a combined sitting of MPs and senators, his nomination could be repeated a few times.
The leader of the Pheu Thai Party, the main partner of Move Forward in the coalition, also said the vote for premier, expected in about two weeks, could be highly unpredictable.
The coalition parties account for 312 of the 500 members of the House of Representatives. A prime ministerial candidate needs the combined support of a majority of the 500 MPs and 250 appointed senators, or 376 votes.
Move Forward and its supporters have been trying to secure the 64 additional votes they need by making their case to senators. Political observers say it’s been an uphill task, given that all of the senators were appointed by the outgoing prime minister and former coup leader Prayut Chan-o-cha.
Their ranks include more than 110 serving military and police officers, and most appointees tend to be quite conservative. Many have expressed reservations about Move Forward’s determination to amend the lese-majeste law.
When reporters asked Mr Wan Muhamad what would happen if Mr Pita does not win the first vote, he replied: “It has to be figured out how many more votes are needed and where there is insufficient support. Then there will be subsequent votes, one or two more times, to assure Mr Pita and Move Forward that the eight parties want to cooperate for Mr Pita.”
If repeated efforts still fail, there must be an understanding about what should happen next because the speaker cannot keep pushing the same nomination, said Mr Wan Muhamad, whose Prachachat Party is a member of the coalition.
“Otherwise, MPs will not want to attend meetings,” he said. “If they are absent, there will be the lack of a quorum. This cooperation must be subject to understanding.
“It is important for the eight parties to sincerely admit that they have made an all-out effort. If we make it, we will continue with our work. Otherwise, we must find the cause.”
It has been speculated that should repeated attempts to vote for Mr Pita fail, Pheu Thai would be asked to put forward a candidate.
Mr Wan Muhamad emphasised that no matter what happens, Pheu Thai and Move Forward would have to remain united because they have the majority of votes — a combined 292 — in the House. “Then, the other side will not have a chance to form the government,” he said.
Pheu Thai leader Cholnan Srikaew said on Tuesday that members of the eight coalition allies would vote unanimously for the next prime minister but it was difficult to predict what would happen in parliament, especially when it came to the decisions of senators.