Most MFP backers ‘oppose voting for Pheu Thai PM pick’
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Most MFP backers ‘oppose voting for Pheu Thai PM pick’

Election-winning party says it will take its direction from the people who gave it 14 million votes

Angry demonstrators approach the gate of the parliament complex after learning of the Constitutional Court’s order to suspend Move Forward Party leader Pita Limjaroenrat from duty as an MP on July 19. (Photo: Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)
Angry demonstrators approach the gate of the parliament complex after learning of the Constitutional Court’s order to suspend Move Forward Party leader Pita Limjaroenrat from duty as an MP on July 19. (Photo: Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)

The majority of Move Forward Party (MFP) supporters do not approve of the party voting for the prime ministerial candidate of the Pheu Thai Party, according to some senior Move Forward members.

The party cited results of internal opinion polls conducted by MPs showing that at least 95% of supporters are against supporting Pheu Thai’s prime ministerial candidate in parliament.

Senior Pheu Thai figures, led by Paetongtarn Shinawatra, the daughter of party patriarch Thaksin Shinawatra, visited the MFP head office on Wednesday to seek support for its candidate, expected to be real estate billionaire Srettha Thavisin. Ms Paetongtarn and Chaikasem Nitisiri are the other two candidates.

Move Forward leaders gave no answer, saying they were awaiting more feedback from the people who gave the party more than 14 million votes in the May 14 general election.

On Thursday, MFP list-MP Wiroj Lakkhanaadisorn wrote on Facebook that the party must not vote in a way that opens the door to the legacy of dictatorship to re-enter government.

He was referring to the “uncles” parties: Palang Pracharath (PPRP) led by Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon and United Thai Nation (UTN), for which Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha formerly served as chief adviser.

The MFP insists that the two army generals, who had prominent roles in the 2014 coup and the National Council for Peace and Order that ran the country until 2019, maintain a firm grip on their respective parties.

Mr Wiroj’s remark came amid growing speculation that either or both parties could be invited to join the new Pheu Thai-led coalition.

Mr Wiroj said the very people Pheu Thai should reach out to were its red shirt supporters who have fought to defend Pheu Thai’s political cause for almost 20 years.

Pheu Thai has been accused of ignoring the wishes of many red shirts who wanted to see it and Move Forward, along with other parties in the so-called pro-democracy camp, form a government together.

Pheu Thai is now pressing ahead with the government formation effort with the Bhumjaithai and Chartthaipattana parties as well as six small parties agreeing to be part of the new coalition lineup.

The new coalition now commands 238 MP seats, which still falls 13 seats short of a simple majority in the 500-seat House of Representatives. Pheu Thai has said it will have at least 250 MP votes when the time comes to choose the new prime minister, which could come as soon as late next week.

Pheu Thai is expected to approach at least one more party from the previous government bloc to join. Those not invited so far are the PPRP, UTN and the Democrat Party. The latter has been in disarray for weeks, having made two failed attempts to choose a new leader.

Even with those three parties in the lineup, Mr Srettha would still need the support of some senators to win a prime ministerial vote.

Pheu Thai’s original plan was to persuade the MFP to back Mr Srettha. That way, the votes of senators would not be required to produce a majority at a combined House and Senate sitting.

Mr Wiroj said that as far as he was concerned, Move Forward would be neglecting its own supporters’ mandate if it voted for Pheu Thai’s candidate.

'Pheu Thai does have a choice'

He added that Pheu Thai should not use an MFP refusal to back Mr Srettha as an excuse to turn to the “uncles” parties for support.

“Pheu Thai does have a choice. There’s always the eight-party alliance to fall back on,” he said, referring to previous coalition pact with Move Forward at its head.

However, that coalition collapsed because almost no senators would vote for Move Forward leader Pita Limjaroenrat, saying his party’s plan to amend the sensitive lese-majeste law was a deal-breaker.

Many individual Move Forward MPs this week have been conducting yes/no mini-polls on social media about voting for a Pheu Thai candidate. The results are 90-95% opposed, but it cannot be verified whether these “votes” come from constituents, and whether people voted more than once.

Natthapol Towijakchaikul, an MFP MP for Chiang Mai, said he organised an online survey which found 95% disapproved of the party getting behind Pheu Thai’s prime ministerial candidate.

“We’re all ears to the voice of the people,” he said.

Some supporters, he added, were stressed about the country carrying on without a fully functioning government for months. However, they were prepared to wait further.

Move Forward earlier suggested the prime ministerial selection be put on hold until May next year when the current senators’ power to electing a prime minister will expire. Mr Pita could then be voted in as premier without an obstacle.

The next Senate will not have the power to vote for a PM, something that was outlined in “provisonal clause” inserted into the constitution by the Prayut government after the public approved the 2017 charter in a referendum.

Prasertpong Sornnuwat, another MFP MP, admitted party supporters in some constituencies were split over whether to support Mr Srettha for prime minister.

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