THAILAND’S two biggest rival political parties could be forming an alliance in a bid to limit the powers of the military junta ahead of the polls expected in February 2019.
According to Bloomberg, top leaders from the Pheu Thai party, aligned with ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, and the Democrat Party led by Abhisit Vejjajiva, said they were open to cooperation if certain conditions were met.
The leaders of both parties, in separate interviews last week, said while any partnership would be delicate, the two sides have a common ground: to prevent unelected legislators from installing Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha as premier again after the elections.
Prominent Pheu Thai member Chaturon Chaisang said it was important to prevent members of the current military government, known National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), from choosing the country’s leader.
“I am trying to persuade political parties to not support the NCPO leader in becoming the next prime minister after the election,” he was quoted as saying.
The new Constitution backed by the junta allows 250 senators appointed by the military voting rights to choose the next prime minister.
“I personally have not shut the door on working together with any other party, including the Democrats.”
Chaturon believes Pheu Thai will win the highest number of seats in the polls. And while it would be “very difficult” for the two parties to form an alliance, the current electoral system makes it difficult for any single party to gain a majority.
“If one of the parties, any party, decides not to ally itself with any other party, political parties might not be able to form a government,” Chaturon said.
“That’s why I personally never say that we will never work together, or align ourselves with any party.”
Prayuth, who led the military coup to oust Thaksin’s sister and Thailand’s former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra in 2014, earlier said he has yet to decide to stay on as prime minister
There is also wide speculation that MPs from the Pheu Thai party were being asked to defect to the Palang Pracharat party. The latter party could serve as a vehicle for the extension of Prayuth’s tenure in office.
Abhisit, who took office from 2008 to 2011, said in another interview with Bloomberg that senators should respect the will of the people in picking the prime minister.
“What would be the point of having elections if they are not going to be meaningful,” Abhisit said.
“We are all responsible for where the country is today.”
And while an alliance could be on the cards, Abhisit said cooperation would not be easy.
“We will only join a government that we believe will best serve the interests of the people,” Abhisit said.
“We don’t yet know how Pheu Thai is going to evolve, but I have said before that if Pheu Thai cannot step out of the shadow and the interests of the Shinawatra family, and do not learn from the lessons of the abuses of the past, it will be difficult for us to work with them.”