Thamanat expulsion leaves waters murkier
interview: Wissanu says the govt faces a period of uncertainty as its biggest threat comes from within, writes Mongkol Bangprapa
With Capt Thamanat Prompow and 20 MPs having been expelled from the ruling Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) during the past week, the coalition government has been left with 254 seats and a slim majority that could pose problems should it need contentious legislation passed by the House.
The first reading of a draft budget bill is expected to take place in June, with the second and third sessions to follow in mid-August. The opposition may also launch a no-confidence motion sometime between May and September.
According to Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam, a noted legal expert, the government faces an uncertain time but dissolving the House to call an early election is not a viable option.
How will the departure of Capt Thamanat and his faction affect the stability of the coalition, particularly when it comes to voting in the House?
I don’t think I have an answer for that. Politicians will have to take care of it. The current House session will conclude soon [at the end of February], so there should be sufficient time to handle it. The prime minister and leaders of the coalition parties will have to acknowledge that problems lie ahead and figure out how to tackle them.
Can the prime minister dissolve the House before a key bill relating to the new election system has been passed?
The draft will be considered “dropped” in event of a House dissolution. The amendment bill needs to be examined by MPs and senators. The Senate alone can deliberate the bill. After the House is dissolved, a snap election must take place within 45-60 days. I can’t imagine how things will play out. I raised this issue months ago.
Can the caretaker government issue an executive decree based on the contents of the bill?
Some have proposed that, but I disagree. It isn’t a smart way. The executive decree was issued by the government, which means the rules are made by the government.
Can the old version of the law be used?
No. The charter amendments paving the way for a new election have already come into effect. If the House is dissolved, elections must be held. I’ve asked the Election Commission about this scenario, and they don’t have an answer either. I think it should wait until the new law is passed, so we have the tools we need for the elections to proceed.
How soon can the bill be passed?
The scrutiny process still takes time. Even if the process is sped up, the legislation will be subject to changes and the EC must be consulted too. If the EC is not okay with the bill, it can ask the House to revise it. However, if things go really smoothly, it will take about a month. But I doubt it will be that smooth. I believe both the government and opposition will seek changes, which will have to be reviewed by the EC as stipulated in the charter. That’s why I said I have no answer.
So, the prime minister should not dissolve the House until the election-related bill is passed?
Is the amendment process still on track?
Yes. The EC will submit the bill to the cabinet next week. If approved, it will go straight to the House.
Can the prime minister’s resignation solve the problem?
He can resign but I’m not sure how it will solve the problem or what problem it will solve.
Parliament would proceed to choose a new prime minister, but it is still the same parliament.
MPs are stuck with their parties. They can’t switch or dissolve parties.
Does the law allow MPs to request that their party expel them?
They can but it depends on their party. It is an internal matter.
The coalition government now has a far slimmer majority of seats. Will that affect its stability?
It’s a political matter and I don’t know what to say. We did have a similar situation.
The government still commands a majority despite losing some seats.
The PPRP isn’t a party with a majority. It and the coalition partners together command a majority in the House.
Did the prime minister ask you for any advice?
No. It is a relatively new development. I don’t think anyone has a definite answer.
They are attempting to make up the rules of the game as they go along in order to figure out a solution. It is about the formation of a government, and you need to ask those involved.
I don’t have an answer.
Can we say the government faces a period of uncertainty?
So, a political mishap of some kind could happen at any time?
And the prime minister would have to solve the problem quickly?
Both the prime minister and coalition parties. That’s why I once said two years ago when the government was formed that this government was a steel ship but a small one. Nothing and no one can destroy iron, but its own rust. It won’t be the opposition that brings it down.
Are the problems from within?
The prime minister is in the rough?
How should the prime minister and coalition parties tackle the problems?
I don’t know and I don’t have any suggestions. How can I make suggestions to the prime minister via media?