Parliament elects Srettha prime minister
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Parliament elects Srettha prime minister

Property tycoon from Pheu Thai-led coalition secures comfortable majority 100 days after election

Individual parliamentarians are called by name to vote during the joint sitting to elect a prime minister on Tuesday afternoon. (Photo: Chanat Katanyu)
Individual parliamentarians are called by name to vote during the joint sitting to elect a prime minister on Tuesday afternoon. (Photo: Chanat Katanyu)

The joint sitting of the House and the Senate on Tuesday elected Srettha Thavisin of the Pheu Thai Party as the 30th prime minister of Thailand with 482 votes for, 165 votes against and 81 abstentions.

The vote took place exactly 100 days after 39 million people cast ballots in an election that cost taxpayers 6 billion baht. The result of that exercise bore little resemblance to the final outcome of weeks of manoeuvring involving a few hundred elected and unelected politicians.

There are 500 elected House representatives and currently 249 appointed senators. Mr Srettha needed a simple majority of 375 votes. A total of 728 MPs and senators were present in the chamber on Tuesday.

Of the 482 votes for Mr Srettha, 330 came from MPs and 152 from senators. Of the 164 votes against him, 152 were representatives and 12 are senators. The 81 abstentions came from 13 MPs and 68 senators.

Almost all of the votes against Mr Srettha came from the Move Forward Party, which won the May 14 election but could not get its leader, Pita Limjaroenrat, approved. Only 13 senators voted for him on July 13. Move Forward is now sitting in opposition.

Pheu Thai was subsequently asked to attempt to form a government, and it has cobbled together an 11-party coalition with 314 MPs.

Srettha Thavisin, prime minister-elect

Pheu Thai leader Cholnan Srikaew on Tuesday morning nominated Mr Srettha, a property tycoon, as the sole prime ministerial candidate and five hours of debate on Mr Srettha’s qualifications by MPs and senators followed.

Many parliamentarians said Mr Srettha should have attended the session to introduce himself and his policies and clarify recent allegations made against him, given that he was seeking a very important position.

However, Parliament President Wan Muhamad Noor Matha said earlier that the candidate would not be asked to attend the session or give a vision statement, as there was no specific legal requirement for him to do so.

Some parliamentarians voiced concerns about allegations of impropriety in land purchases by the property developer Sansiri Plc when Mr Srettha was still chief executive of the company.

Senator Wiwat Saengsuriyachat said he had little knowledge about Mr Srettha and that Pheu Thai had not distributed a written profile of its candidate to parliamentarians.

“I have only seen news reports about him and there were many accusations against him,” Mr Wiwat said.

Suratin Pijarn, leader of the New Democracy Party, said he did not know much about Mr Srettha and was aware only that the prime ministerial candidate “built houses for sale”.

“Will we have to vote for a prime minister as if we are buying a product online?” he asked rhetorically.

He also asked how the Pheu Thai Party would fund its 560-billion-baht digital wallet policy. He doubted the country could afford it, given its present financial status.

Senator Gen Lertrat Ratanawanit said he recognised Mr Srettha’s performance in running Sansiri but added that the candidate should respond to the allegations against him.

Both Mr Srettha and Sansiri have publicly addressed the accusations made by whistleblower Chuvit Kamolvisit, with Sansiri saying it followed all legal requirements.

Mr Cholnan said his party was aware of the allegations but its legal team had investigated them and found no evidence proving that Mr Srettha had violated any law.

“The allegations have not been proved. So, Mr Srettha is considered as being innocent and honest,” Dr Cholnan said.

Mr Wan ended the debate at 3.11pm and started the voting by calling the names of individual elected MPs and senators.

The results were announced about 5.40pm. Mr Wan will now propose the name of the prime minister-elect for royal approval.

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