Padipat Suntiphada has shrugged off criticism about a “conspiracy” with the Move Forward Party to retain the deputy House speaker’s position by expelling him from the party.
Mr Padipat said on Friday that the move announced on Thursday night came about after he told the party’s new executive board that he wanted to continue his work as deputy House speaker.
In his view, it was critical for him to remain in the position to ensure the transparency of parliament and carry out the task as deputy speaker in a neutral manner, regardless of which party he belonged to.
He dismissed claims made by some coalition parties and senators that his expulsion represented a conspiracy by the MFP to keep the position to strengthen its legislative role.
He pointed out that limitations in the constitution meant that the party had to find the best way out of its dilemma. There was no other option, he added.
Under Section 106 of the charter, the opposition leader is appointed from the biggest party not in government. That party’s MPs cannot serve as cabinet ministers or as House speaker or deputy speaker.
With Mr Padipat serving as first deputy speaker, Move Forward could not legally lead the opposition despite commanding the largest number of seats in the House, at 151.
House Speaker Wan Muhamad Noor Matha is expected to name Move Forward as the official opposition soon. The move had been delayed by uncertainty about the MP status of former leader Pita Limjaroenrat, who finally stepped aside this month. That paved the way for the election of Chaithawat Tulathon as the new leader on Saturday.
Mr Padipat insisted he would not be a nominee of Move Forward if he moved to another party.
The 41-year-old MP from Phitsanulok has 30 days to switch to a new party to keep his MP status. Two opposition parties — Fair and Thai Sang Thai — have indicated they are ready to welcome him if he needs to find a new political home.
He maintained that he would move to a political party with the same political ideology and would not join a party that represented political polarisation.
He said he respected the party’s resolution and insisted that his planned switch to a new party would not affect his duties as a deputy speaker.
“I respect the MFP’s decision to be the opposition completely and end my status as the party’s MP,” he said. “From now on, I, whatever party I will belong to, will push to upgrade the work of parliament to my fullest capacity as I promised earlier.”