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Thai Parliament delays decision on PM

September 13th, 2008 · No Comments


DEPOSED Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej’s bid for re-election suffered a blow yesterday when Parliament was forced to postpone its selection of a new premier after a no show from ruling coalition MPs prevented a quorum.

The ruling People Power Party (PPP) re-selected Mr Samak as its candidate for prime minister on Thursday, just two days after the Constitutional Court forced him to resign from the position over a conflict of interest.

The vote to decide who will get the job was postponed until next Wednesday after only 161 of the total 470 MPs with voting rights showed up – substantially less than the 235 needed for a quorum.
PPP said it took a tactical decision not to turn up to address divisions within the party.

‘We could not go ahead with the vote because there were many disagreements with the party’s decision (to nominate Mr Samak). We had to postpone until next week,’ said PPP spokesman Kuthep Saikrachang.

Mr Samak has to take the final decision over whether to continue the fight, said Mr Kuthep. ‘However, I have heard there is a possibility that he will do it the right way this time.’ Sakda Khongphet from the PPP’s powerful 70-seat-strong Isan Phatthana faction yesterday said his group would support PPP Deputy Leader Somphong Amornwiwat as its prime ministerial candidate and called for Mr Samak to step down.

Other members of the coalition, including the Chart Thai and Puea Pandin parties, were reported to be withdrawing their support for him.

‘I think they (the MPs who did not turn up) voted with their feet,’ said Democrat Party spokesman Buranaj Smutharaks, commenting on the PPP and coalition party no-show. ‘It’s quite clear that within the government – the PPP and the coalition parties – they see things quite differently.’

Months of protests by the reactionary anti-government People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD), which has occupied Government House since Aug 26 demanding that Mr Samak resign and dissolve Parliament, are beginning to take their toll, said the director of the Institute of Security and International Studies at Chulalongkorn University, Thitinan Pongsudhirak.

‘The tide is turning against Samak and the problem is no one else in PPP has his stature,’ Dr Thitinan said. ‘He represents something that no one else in the party has – a close working relationship with the military and access to the palace.’

With his support within the coalition waning, an outstanding court case against him – which could lead to his disqualification from office for a second time – and no sign of the PAD backing down, Mr Samak’s candidacy was becoming increasingly problematic, said Dr Thitinan.

Prolonged indecision could result in the PAD’s highly criticised anti-democratic demands for a legislature that is 70 per cent appointed, and only 30 per cent elected, winning through, he added.

‘When the PAD puts down its stakes like this and goes for broke, it is winning at the expense of the country and of the system,’ Dr Thitinan said. ‘If you want to use that as your instrument, damaging your own country, then you can achieve a lot.’

Published September 13, 2008
© The Business Times

Tags: news · The Business Times (Singapore)

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