The Bhumjaithai Party has petitioned the Election Commission (EC) for the dissolution of the Move Forward Party (MFP), pointing out that it leads the opposition in the House of Representatives while a former party member remains House deputy speaker.
Bhumjaithai registrar Supachai Jaisamut said on Wednesday that he had sent his petition to the political party registrar of the EC. It asked that the election regulator look into the behaviour of Move Forward and its former member, Phitsanulok MP Padipat Suntiphada.
Mr Supachai said he wondered if Move Forward had followed the rules by launching disciplinary action against Mr Padipat before expelling him. If not, he remained a member of the party.
The main opposition party in recent days has expelled two other MPs for sexual harassment, but those moves followed disciplinary investigations in line with the party’s regulations.
Move Forward emerged from the May 14 general election with the most seats and Mr Padipat became a deputy House speaker. But the party was subsequently excluded from the coalition government and became the biggest opposition party. Bhumjaithai came third in the election and is a member of the coalition.
The constitution requires the leader of the biggest opposition party to be the opposition leader, but it also prohibits any member of that party from serving as a cabinet minister, House speaker or deputy speaker.
Chaithawat Tulathon was elected leader of the MFP on Sept 23, succeeding Pita Limjaroenrat who was suspended from parliamentary duty pending a court ruling on his eligibility and could not be the opposition leader.
On Sept 28 the MFP expelled Mr Padipat. This move was seen as enabling the party to retain both roles — both opposition leader and deputy speaker.
“I have asked the political party registrar of the Office of the Election Commission to check if the Move Forward Party took disciplinary action against Mr Padipat as required by its regulations and by law,” Mr Supachai said.
If Move Forward did not go through this process, Mr Padipat remained a member of the party and could not join another political party, the Bhumjaithai registrar said.
If Mr Padipat had resigned, and was not expelled for a serious disciplinary violation, then his status as an MP automatically lapsed, Mr Supachai said.
Mr Padipat is now a member of the Fair Party, a two-member opposition party.
Mr Supachai questioned whether Move Forward could be considered as conspiring with Mr Padipat to keep both posts, opposition leader and deputy speaker, as its own. If so, it could be seen as conspiring against the constitutional monarchy.
He said that if the EC registrar finds irregularities, it should then ask the Constitutional Court to disband the MFP.
The Constitutional Court is still considering another complaint that could lead to the dissolution of Move Forward over its plan to amend Section 112 of the Criminal Code, the lese-majeste law. It is scheduled to hear evidence on Nov 15.
The complaint was filed by activist lawyer Theerayut Suwannakaysorn. He is best known for representing Phra Buddha Isara, a monk who was a key agitator in the Bangkok Shutdown protests that led to the 2014 military coup. He was later defrocked and is now known as Suwit Thongprasert.
Supachai Jaisamut, registrar of the coalition member Bhumjaithai Party, has questioned whether the expulsion of Move Forward MP Padipat Suntiphada followed a disciplinary hearing as required, or whether it was just a tactical move to ensure he could remain House deputy speaker.