Will the Thai military allow Puea Thai to form the next government?
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Will the Thai military allow Puea Thai to form the next government?

Have already blogged on whether extra-electoral forces will intervene in Thailand’s democracy again and in another post on the Thai military’s role on “persuading” the coalition partners to back the Democrats in 2008, but there is an interesting related quote by Pairoj Suwannachawee, a core leader of the so-called 3P faction of the Puea Pandin Party who have around 17 MPs, in the Bangkok Post:

“I am 100% sure that the Democrat Party will win and again become the core party in forming a coalition government,” Mr Pairoj replied quickly when asked the question.

The only party that can match the Democrat Party is the Puea Thai Party, “but without a leader, there is no way [for Puea Thai] to win”, the veteran politician said.

And even if Puea Thai could turn things around and it won the most seats in the lower house, “it would be unable to form a coalition government because no other party would join it”.

Asked why, Mr Pairoj said simply: “There is a main factor – the power of the gun.”

He refused to elaborate.

Mr Pairoj is one of 111 former Thai Rak Thai Party executives who were banned from politics in 2007 for five years.

But Mr Pairoj, like many veteran politicians who share a similar fate, said he would not accept a political position after the ban expires.

He said he was uneasy about re-entering politics under the present circumstances, which he described as a “no-choice” democracy.

“I believe the Democrat Party will be the only choice to form a new coalition government after the next general election, and there will be no other choice because of the aforesaid reason [the power of the gun].”

BP: Chalerm of Puea Thai and Banharn of Chat Thai Pattana have both said that Puea Thai need to win more than half of the seats in parliament at the next election in order to form a government, without explaining why. It does not take a rocket scientist to work out, although for some reason the Bangkok Post are unable to point out the obvious, that this a reference to the military who are acting on behalf of the establishment. Interesting that Pairoj is willing to state this openly and on-the-record, even though he is using “code”.

On the election outcome, BP still thinks that Puea Thai will win the most seats at the next election, as explained here and here. The problem for Puea Thai is now that the prospect of being permanent opposition, as winning more than half of the seats will be very, very difficult means. This makes it less attractive for MPs to remain with the party and defections are more likely, making it even more difficult to win more than half of the seats.* The likely change to the electoral system of 375 single seat constituency seats and 125 party list seats also hinders Puea Thai’s chances. It helps the Democrats as they did better on the party list compared to the constituency vote in the 2007 election, and it helps the coalition partners in constituency seats when competing with Puea Thai.

Having said that, BP is not so sure that Puea Thai have to win more than half of the seats. For example, at the 2007 general election they won 233 out of 480 seats and were able to form a government. The same is likely to apply this time around.  Now, of course there could be some Puea Thai factions that could be persuaded to defect from Puea Thai after the election, but this is just as likely if Puea Thai win just more than half (say 255 out of 500) as if they win just less than half (say 245 out of 500).* Things could get interesting if Puea Thai win say 230 out of 500 seats.

*If you read both sentences with the *, you can also see a reason for Puea Thai MPs not to defect before the election. The last group of defectors (ie. Newin’s faction) were rewarded with Interior, Transport and Communication ministries for defecting. The rewards for defectors are quite high, but their real value is if Puea Thai win enough seats to prevent the Democrats from forming a government (say 230 or 235 seats). The reason 230 or 235 seats is enough is that Ministers can’t vote in no-confidence debates and there will be always some MPs on the government side who will disagree with some policy and vote against it/abstain etc.