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Thai govt faces trouble if it can’t agree on PM runner – Intense negotiations are now taking place within PPP

September 16th, 2008 · No Comments


THAILAND’S government faces serious trouble if the ruling People Power Party (PPP) cannot agree on its prime ministerial candidate before Parliament votes on the matter tomorrow, a party spokesman said yesterday.

The Constitutional Court sacked Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej last week over a conflict of interest for receiving payments for hosting TV cooking shows. He was re-nominated by PPP on Thursday, then dropped on Friday after a rebellion by party members and coalition partners forced the parliamentary vote to be postponed.

Intense negotiations are taking place within PPP after the powerful Newin Chidchob faction yesterday refused to endorse the party executive committee’s candidate, Acting Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat.

‘The party is facing difficulty after the committee’s decision was challenged by 73 MPs in the Newin faction,’ said PPP spokesman Kuthep Saikrachang. ‘Negotiations are ongoing. But it will be a big problem for the government if we can’t reach a decision by Wednesday’s vote.’

PPP’s five coalition partners will support anyone selected by the party other than Mr Samak, he said. The Newin faction was taking the opportunity to show its power and influence by backing Finance Minister Surapong Suebwonglee, he added.

Any further delays to the vote will damage the PPP-led government’s standing – already weakened after a three-week continuing occupation of Government House by the anti-government People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD).

‘If they postpone the election again it will make the government’s position increasingly untenable, which would raise the possibility of a snap election,’ said Bangkok-based political and security analyst at PSA Asia Ismail Wolff.

PAD said that both candidates are unacceptable and it will continue its protests against what it says is a ‘proxy government’ of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra (Mr Somchai’s brother-in-law), who was ousted in a December 2006 military coup.

Yesterday, the movement continued to push its demands for a government with a majority of representatives appointed from ‘outside’ politics. This would require a change in the 2007 Constitution, which says that MPs must be elected by popular vote.

‘PAD continues to change its stance as things develop. Before, it said Somchai or Surapong would be OK,’ said Mr Wolff. ‘I don’t think it wants a resolution through the parliamentary system, as it continues to try and unsettle the government and the parliamentary process as a whole.’

While widespread popular support for PAD is thin, it receives backing from Bangkok’s power elite and senior military bureaucrats who distrust the current political system, he said. ‘The last month has shone a light on the deep divisions in Thailand, which the parliamentary system is struggling to fix.’

Meanwhile, Thailand’s caretaker Deputy Prime Minister Sahas Bunditkul said last night that he will step down, citing poor health.

Thailand’s Consumer Confidence Index fell to 77.7 per cent in August – its lowest point this year. Political turmoil, rather than economic woes, was the key factor, according to KGI Securities (Thailand), which said that fears of violence and the forthcoming ruling on whether PPP will be disbanded for electoral fraud during last December’s general election are major concerns for consumers.

‘The potential PPP dissolution, and the reaction to the court decision due in November or December, is the biggest issue for Thai politics,’ said KGI strategist Rakpong Chaisuparakul. ‘If there is a political resolution, consumer confidence will rebound, but it’s impossible to predict now.’

Published September 16, 2008
© The Business Times

Tags: news · The Business Times (Singapore)

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