Thanathorn’s difficult prime ministerial bid

In order to become the next Prime Minister of Thailand, Thanathorn needs to rely on defections.

Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit

Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit has announced at Thai Summit Tower on 16 May 2019 that he is ready to form a government and become the next Prime Minister of Thailand.

Dressed in white as usual, Thanathorn said he was ready to talk to every party to form a government coalition in order to stop the junta’s continuation of power, send the military back to the barracks, amend the constitution, and hold a more democratic election.

After the election, he said he was ready to be the next Prime Minister of Thailand, but the Future Forward Party would not nominate him because it did not get most seats in Parliament. However, he said the Pheu Thai party, which has won the most MPs in the last election, has opened the way for the Future Forward Party to lead the next government.

It is still safe to say he has the backing of 245 MPs of the anti-junta bloc, consisting of Pheu Thai, Pheu Chart, Thai Liberal Party, Prachachart Party, Phalang Puangchon Thai Party, and the New Economics Party. However, he still has 131 MPs to go. In order to win the premiership, Thanathorn would need to gather a total of 376 MPs and senators from diverse points on the political spectrum to join his side.

It will be very challenging for him to form a government. He faces an uphill battle because the junta has a head start with the support of the 250 senators who, appointed by the junta itself, are enabled by the Constitution to vote for the Prime Minister. A group of micro parties with a total of 13 MPs, who benefited from the questionable calculation method for allocating party-list MPs designed by the Election Commission of Thailand (ECT), has also declared its allegiance to the pro-junta Phalang Pracharat Party.    

Thanathorn said yesterday (15 May) that he made a phone call to congratulate Jurin Laksanawisit on his election as the new leader of the Democrat Party. Even though they did not discuss government formation, Thanathorn said he received a good feedback. The Democrat Party won 52 MPs in the March election.

The Democrat Party is one of five undecided parties totalling 116 MPs. Even if Thanathorn can overcome all obstacles to win support from all of them, it will still not be enough for him to become Prime Minister since he will still need 12 more MPs. So he will need to rely on defections to form a government.

A couple of days after the election, Thanathorn formed an anti-junta bloc with 255 MPs out of 500, but this was recently reduced to 245 MPs due to the ECT’s method of calculating the allocation of party-list MPs. The first step would be to gain back that majority in the House of Representatives in order to have leverage against the junta. In that case, the junta government will not be able to pass legislation through the House, and the 250 senators may change their minds so that the country can move “future forward”. But no one knows if it is genuinely possible.

It is also wishful thinking to say that another potential source of defections may be Phalang Pracharat itself. 42 MPs from the last election are former members of other political parties before they joined Phalang Pracharat, including Pheu Thai, the Democrat Party, and the Bhumjaithai Party. If Thanathorn’s allies (now still limited to Pheu Thai) can make use of this, there might be some prospects.