Thailand’s political drama is set to drag on, with the speaker of parliament delaying a planned vote to select the country’s next prime minister until at least August 16 – and most likely longer.
Wan Muhamad Noor Matha told reporters yesterday that the vote, which had been scheduled for today, could only be held after the Constitutional Court rules on an appeal by the progressive Move Forward Party (MFP) against lawmakers’ decision to block its leader Pita Limjaroenrat from nominating himself a second time for the country’s top office.
“We have to wait for the Constitutional Court to make its decision on August 16 before determining when we will have the vote again,” Wan Noor said, according to Reuters.
Today was to be Parliament’s third attempt to choose a prime minister, after it twice rejected Pita’s candidacy, despite his party scoring an unexpected victory at general elections in May. The MFP leader’s first attempt on July 13 failed due to the opposition of the military-appointed Senate. A second attempt on July 19 did not even reach a vote, after Parliament voted that he could not renominate himself for the position.
The MFP then filed an appeal to the Constitutional Court, claiming that the decision was unconstitutional. In a statement yesterday, the court said it needs more time to deliberate on whether to accept the petition and would meet again on August 16. If it accepts the petition, the court could order the prime ministerial vote to be postponed until it issues a ruling.
Wan Noor said that Parliament will still convene to debate a quixotic MFP petition seeking an amendment to the military-drafted 2017 Constitution that would eliminate the Senate’s ability to vote for the prime minister, which gives it a virtual veto.
As things stand, Thailand’s next prime minister is likely to come from the Pheu Thai Party (PTP), which came in second in the May 14 election, and initially joined with the MFP and six other parties in an attempt to form a government under Pita’s leadership. But Pheu Thai announced on Wednesday that it would seek to form a government without Move Forward, which is staunchly opposed by the conservative Senators and House members whose support it needs in order to form government.
The PTP says that Srettha Thavisin, a real estate mogul and political neophyte, will be its nominee for the prime ministership. According to The Associated Press, the party’s plan to announce its new coalition partners yesterday was also postponed following the court’s announcement.
With the political uncertainty set to drag on for a further two weeks at least, Thailand is likely to be approaching the point when the political drama could begin to affect the country’s economic trajectory. Reuters noted that the Thai baht has already weakened this week due to the political uncertainty. And it remains to be seen how livid MFP supporters might react to the party being cast back into opposition by Thailand’s undemocratic Constitution.