House speaker Wan Muhamad Noor Matha said on Friday he hoped the House of Representatives could name the opposition leader as soon as possible, now that the opposition Move Forward Party (MFP) has elected its new leader and expelled Padipat Suntiphada, an MP for Phitsanulok, as its member.
On Sept 23, the MFP elected Chaithawat Tulathon as its new leader as well as its new executive committee. The party subsequently decided to expel Mr Padipat, the first deputy House speaker as its member to make way for Mr Chaithawat to be named the opposition leader.
Under Section 106 of the 2017 constitution, the opposition leader will be appointed from the biggest party in that camp. Its MPs must not serve as cabinet ministers or as the House speaker or deputy speaker.
Mr Wan said that despite the expulsion, Mr Padipat can continue to perform his duty as the first deputy House speaker while looking for a new political party to join.
According to the Political Party Act, an MP who is expelled as a member of a party is required to join a new party in 30 days to retain the MP status. At least two opposition parties - Thai Sang Thai and Fair - have indicated that they are ready to welcome the 41-year-old politician.
Mr Padipat's expulsion has been long anticipated as a tactical move of the MFP to ensure that the post of deputy House speaker is still in the hand of its allies, while the party plays the full-fledged role as the main opposition party.
Mr Wan said the MFP is required to notify the Election Commission (EC) of its resolution to expel Mr Padipat.
He would also ask the EC about the Mr Chaithawat's election as the new MFP leader so that the new opposition leader can be appointed as soon as possible.
Asked whether there would be any problem to have a deputy House speaker from the opposition camp, particularly when there is a move to amend Section 112 of the Criminal Code or the lese majeste law, Mr Wan said he did not think so. He added that all deputy House speakers must perform their duties as assigned by the House speaker as required by the House regulations.
When questioned about whether there was sufficient justification for the MFP's expulsion of Mr Padipat, Mr Wan refrained from providing a comment, saying that it was a decision made by the party itself.
On a suggestion that some people might seek the Constitutional Court's ruling on the constitutionality of Mr Padipat's expulsion, the House speaker again declined to comment, citing that such an occurrence had not transpired.
Concerning this matter, Senator Wanchai Sornsiri described the MFP's actions towards Mr Padipat as deceptive.
He said the MFP, which portrayed itself as upholding high standards, was no different from other parties regarding aspirations for power. The public was aware that the expulsion was only a pretext for the party to retain the deputy House speaker's position, the senator added.
Mr Wanchai said although the MFP insisted it had complied with the constitution, it should have taken into consideration political ethics, moral principles and appropriateness in its actions.