Pita sees senators backtrack

Pita sees senators backtrack

PM bid weakened by MFP's S112 policy

Move Forward Party (MFP) leader Pita Limjaroenrat waves his hand as he attends a parliament meeting to vote for the House speaker on Tuesday morning. (Photo: Chanat Katanyu)
Move Forward Party (MFP) leader Pita Limjaroenrat waves his hand as he attends a parliament meeting to vote for the House speaker on Tuesday morning. (Photo: Chanat Katanyu)

Several senators have now backtracked and said they will no longer vote for Move Forward Party (MFP) leader Pita Limjaroenrat to become the new prime minister as they are concerned about his party's policies, especially the planned amendment of the lese majeste law and a shift in foreign policy.

Despite pledging to vote for him, they have apparently had a change of heart due to the party's stance on changing Section 112 of the Criminal Code, or the lese majeste law. The MFP has vowed to press for an amendment.

"One of the main reasons ... is that he is seeking to amend Section 112 as well as reform the monarchy," Senator Prapan Koonmee said. "The MFP's stance on foreign policy also poses a danger to the country."

"Thailand is a friend to every country. If Mr Pita comes to power, foreign policy will be changed in a way that leans towards a particular superpower," he said.

"Let alone the complaints questioning Mr Pita's eligibility due to his [former] shareholding in iTV Plc."

He said the MFP has also been accused of trying to overthrow the constitutional monarchy, citing a petition filed by lawyer Theerayut Suwankesorn to the Office of the Attorney-General.

Mr Theerayut claimed the MFP's policy on Section 112 is a breach of Section 49 of the constitution.

According to sources at parliament, 24 senators were asked whether they would vote for Mr Pita at the joint sitting of parliament scheduled for July 13.

They include 14 senators who previously said they would vote for him.

A check on Thursday found that eight senators cited the plan to amend Section 112, whereas five said they would vote in Mr Pita's favour in line with a decision by a majority of the House.

Another nine said they would decide on the day of the vote, while the other two refused to comment, according to the sources said.

Senator Weerasak Futrakul said he wanted to consider whether the MFP's policies are in the country's best interests before making a decision.

Another senator, AVC Chalermchai Krea-ngam, said he would take into account the national interest and security first.

Chalermchai Fuengkhon, also a senator, admitted he had previously decided to vote for Mr Pita, but the Section 112 issue had since caused him to change his mind.

"If Mr Pita agrees to back down from that bid, I am ready to vote for him," he said.

He also revealed that representatives of the MFP had approached senators about voting for Mr Pita, but most said they would make a decision shortly before the July 13 vote.

Senator Songdet Samueakham confirmed he would vote for Mr Pita, but he admitted Mr Pita was unlikely to receive enough support to successfully emerge as the nation's next prime minister.

"Mr Pita should step forward and declare that he will leave Section 112 alone. This is the only way for him to become prime minister," Mr Songdet said.

A joint sitting of MPs and senators will convene on July 13 for the crucial vote.

According to the charter, 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 are able to co-elect a prime minister. After the 2019 election, they joined MPs in voting for Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha to return as premier.

The charter stipulated the Senate could only serve a five-year transitional term following the 2019 election. That ends in May next year.

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