The Pheu Thai Party has emerged in pole position to form a new government after parliament on Wednesday rejected a bid to renominate Move Forward Party (MFP) leader Pita Limjaroenrat for a prime ministerial vote, citing a parliamentary meeting regulation.
After more than seven hours of debate on whether Regulation No.41 could be enforced against Mr Pita's renomination, a majority of a joint sitting of MPs and senators voted in favour of the regulation.
The regulation prohibits a motion that has been rejected by parliament from being resubmitted during the same session.
They argued an earlier motion regarding his PM nomination was already rejected by parliament on July 13 when Mr Pita failed to get the needed majority vote in the first round.
In light of this, Pheu Thai has emerged as a front-runner in forming a government, and all eyes are now on whether the party will remain an ally of the MFP under the MoU they signed or whether it will seek to form an alternative coalition by bringing in parties in the outgoing government and exclude the MFP, according to observers.
The Bhumjaithai, Palang Pracharath and Chartthaipattana parties, which are part of the outgoing government, oppose the MFP's plan to amend Section 112 of the Criminal Code, also known as the lese majeste law.
They have made it clear they will not join any government if the MFP is part of it.
After the meeting, Pheu Thai leader Cholnan Srikaew said: "At this moment, Pheu Thai still joins hands with the other coalition allies. Whether the MoU will be revised, I can't give details yet because the eight coalition allies must discuss the matter first. We will also discuss whether more parties will be brought in."
Dr Cholnan also said that House Speaker Wan Muhamad Noor Matha has scheduled the next round of a prime ministerial vote for next Thursday.
Bhumjaithai leader Anutin Charnvirakul on Wednesday reiterated the party's stance against any attempt to amend Section 112.
"If Pheu Thai becomes the leader in forming a government, but the coalition still includes the MFP, which plans to amend Section 112, I won't join it. I don't want a minority government either," Mr Anutin said.
Chartthaipattana leader Varawut Silpa-archa also said the party will not do business with the MFP as long as it still insists on amending Section 112. Asked whether the party would join a new coalition led by Pheu Thai, Mr Varawut said it was premature to discuss the matter.
A source at Pheu Thai said the party should be given a chance to nominate its own PM candidate for the next round of voting after Mr Pita's renomination was rejected.
The source said Pheu Thai has now gathered enough support from Bhumjaithai, the PPRP and Chartthaipattana, with a combined number of 282 MPs to form a stable government. Most of the 250 senators, who are known to have close ties with PPRP leader Prawit Wongsuwon, are also expected to back a PM candidate nominated by Pheu Thai, the source said.
"The MFP will not be forced out of a new coalition [led by Pheu Thai], but we will let it think for itself whether it should be part of the coalition as this will only lead to an impasse," the source said.