MFP Leader Addresses Thai Rallies Ahead of Crucial PM Vote

Recent Features

ASEAN Beat | Politics | Southeast Asia

MFP Leader Addresses Thai Rallies Ahead of Crucial PM Vote

The party’s leader Pita Limjaroenrat is hoping to put pressure on military-appointed senators to uphold the people’s will.

MFP Leader Addresses Thai Rallies Ahead of Crucial PM Vote

Pita Limjaroenrat, the leader of Thailand’s Move Forward Party, addresses supporters in Suphanburi, north of the Thai capital Bangkok, July 9, 2023.

Credit: Facebook/Pita Limjaroenrat – พิธา ลิ้มเจริญรัตน์

Supporters of Thailand’s leading prime ministerial candidate Pita Limjaroenrat rallied in and around the Thai capital Bangkok yesterday, in a bid to put pressure on the country’s military-appointed Senate ahead of a parliamentary vote for a new prime minister later this week.

Pita’s progressive Move Forward Party (MFP) won the most seats at general elections in May – 151 out of the 500 in the House of Representatives – but it remains unclear whether it will be able to form the next government.

Given that the 250 members of the military-appointed Senate will join the House for the July 13 vote to select the prime minister, an undemocratic ruse designed to frustrate the ascent of anti-establishment figures, a successful candidate must command the support of 376 MPs. The MFP’s coalition currently holds just 312 seats, and must make up the 64-seat shortfall either by winning over senators or more conservative members of the House.

During a rally yesterday afternoon outside the CentralWorld shopping center in the heart of Bangkok, Pita addressed a crowd clad in the MFP’s orange, and promised that he would “not step back” in the run-up to the vote, AFP reported.

“We’re asking them to vote for democracy, for the majority, and to return normalcy to Thai politics, so we can finally move forward,” he told supporters on Sunday, according to Reuters.

In a Facebook post prior to yesterday’s gatherings, Pita had urged his supporters to come out to send the message that Senators should vote in line with democratic principles. The Bangkok gathering, which was preceded by a similar event in Suphanburi province, was just one of several that Pita has held, or will hold in the coming days, in the Thai capital and its environs. Pita is scheduled to travel on to Pathum Thani province today and to Samut Prakan province tomorrow.

In recent weeks, the MFP leader has expressed confidence that he will be able to win over enough senators to ensure his selection as PM. Following his speech at the Bangkok rally, Pita told reporters that he had found “closer common ground” with the senators, according to the AFP report.

“Hopefully, in the four days remaining we will be able to come to a consensus and move this country forward,” he said.

The Bangkok rally, while of relatively modest proportions, foreshadows the popular demonstrations that could well erupt should the Senate block Pita’s ability to form the next government.

In its news briefing for today, the Thai Enquirer carried some comments from the outspoken Senator Praphan Koonmee, who has been open about the fact that he will not vote for Pita as prime minister. The publication quoted Praphan as saying that he was not scared of possible public mobilizations if the Senate blocks him taking office.

“If the Senate does not vote for Pita to become the Prime Minister, what law have they violated?” Praphan said. “As far as I have discussed with the others, no one is scared of the orange-clad protesters. No matter how many years they gather, they will not succeed. The police are already preparing detention facilities for them.”

Pita may well have secured the support that he needs and is merely holding rallies to keep up the pressure on the Senate to approve his candidacy. If not, it is hard to see that public rallies alone will succeed in gaining the MFP the support that it needs from conservatives. After all, if moral appeals to the will of the people were enough to sway Thailand’s traditional elite establishment, Pita would already be in office.