The Pheu Thai Party will seek support from the Senate and other political parties outside the current eight-party alliance, aiming to secure enough votes to back its prime ministerial candidate in a parliamentary vote next Thursday.
The party made the declaration on Friday, just hours after the Move Forward Party (MFP) announced it would step back and allow Pheu Thai to form a government and would also nominate a Pheu Thai candidate for the prime minister’s post.
The name of the prime ministerial candidate — widely expected to be Pheu Thai adviser Srettha Thavisin — will be announced on Tuesday, the coalition said at a briefing after a meeting on Friday afternoon.
However, four opposition parties — Bhumjaithai, Palang Pracharath, Chartthaipattana and Ruam Thai Sang Chart Party — all reiterated on Friday that they would not support a government that still has the Move Forward Party in it.
The key sticking point for the opposition parties — and nearly all of the 249 senators — has been Move Forward’s plan to amend Section 112 of the Criminal Code, the lese-majeste law.
Pheu Thai is hoping it can change some minds, starting with the largest opposition party. A party spokesperson said late Friday that leader Cholnan Srikaew and other senior figures would meet on Saturday at 2pm with Bhumjaithai Party leader Anutin Charnvirakul, secretary-general Saksayam Chidchob and Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn, the caretaker minister of tourism and sports.
Pol Gen Sereepisuth Temeeyaves, leader of the Seri Ruam Thai Party, a coalition member, on Friday urged Move Forward to drop its pledge to amend Section 112. Otherwise, he said, Pheu Thai will not get enough support.
In the statement, Pheu Thai thanked Move Forward for passing on the responsibility to form the government. It said it would first consult with the eight parties in the current alliance to exchange opinions and lay down a plan for the government formation.
The eight parties have a total of 311 votes in the House of Representatives, following the suspension of MFP leader Pita Limjaroenrat by the Constitutional Court.
Move Forward won the May 14 general election with 151 House seats and Pheu Thai was the first runner-up with 141.
To secure a parliamentary majority of at least 375 votes, the eight parties need additional support, as they failed to obtain enough votes from the unelected Senate to endorse Mr Pita.
Pheu Thai said it intends to approach the Senate again, as well as other parties outside its existing alliance to seek the necessary support.
As part of that effort, Move Forward secretary-general Chaithawat Tulathon said his party had agreed that Pheu Thai would seek recommendations from the senators about how Section 112 could be amended.
Mr Pita, meanwhile, posted a new video on Twitter on Friday evening, saying that the most important thing is not for him to become prime minister but for the country to have a government that is elected by the people.
He said it also did not even matter if Move Forwar is no longer leading the formation of the government. What matters most, he said, is that the votes from 27 million people must matter.
On Wednesday, the joint House and Senate sitting voted to reject the nomination of Mr Pita on the grounds that a parliamentary regulation prohibited the resubmission of a failed motion during the same parliamentary period.
Parliament president Wan Muhamad Noor Matha called the vote after more than eight hours of debate. A total of 394 parliamentarians, most of them military-appointed senators, voted against Mr Pita’s renomination, 312 voted to support it, eight abstained and one did not exercise the right to vote.
Senator Kittisak Rattanawaraha has been one of the most outspoken critics of Move Forward in recent weeks.
“Move Forward is a danger to the country and its institutions,” he said in an interview with Bloomberg. “As long as Pheu Thai doesn’t divorce Move Forward, senators will never lend their support.”
Mr Kittisak, 67, was recently questioned by police for his alleged involvement in an attack on monks and residents at a temple in Phichit in April.
The attack, involving some 21 hired thugs dressed in black, was reportedly linked to a conflict between the former temple committee and a new group. The investigation is continuing.