Democrat Party hints at Palang Pracharath to stay away from upcoming by-elections

The Democrat Party said on Thursday that they are ready to contest the upcoming by-elections in Songkhla and Chumphon, while its ally, the ruling Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP), said they have yet to decide whether they will field candidates for empty MP seats.

“In the past, if a previous seat belonged to one of the coalition parties in government, it would create an opportunity for that party to field a candidate for the by-election, and other coalition parties will not contest it,” Ongart Klampaiboon, the deputy leader of the Democrat Party told reporters at the parliament on Thursday. 

“However, at the previous Nakhon Si Thammarat by-election, PPRP did send a candidate to contest so we have to wait and see what other parties will do this time…but the Democrat Party is ready to contest and we believe that voters in the two constituencies will continue to support us,” he said.

The Constitutional Court on Wednesday ruled to revoke the MP status of five politicians who were found guilty over their roles in the People’s Democratic Reform Committee protests against the Yingluck Shinawatra administration between 2013 and 2014. Now, political parties are scrambling to fill their vacant seats.

The five MPs who were dismissed include, Thaworn Senneam, Democrat MP for Songkhla, Chompol Julasai, Democrat MP for Chumphon, Issara Somchai, list-MP for the Democrat Party, Nataphol Teepsuwan, former list-MP for the Democrat Party, and Buddhipongse Punnakanta, former list-MP for the PPRP.

The Criminal Court’s ruling forced Thaworn, Nataphol and Buddhipongse to step down from their ministerial posts. However, their MP status was already in doubt as the Election Commission cannot decide on their MP status validity until the Constitutional Court’s ruling on Wednesday.

The ruling means that there are now two vacant MP seats in Chumphon’s Constituency 1 and Songkhla’s Constituency 6, and according to the law, a royal decree must be issued for the by-elections within 45 days after the court ruling.

The PPRP’s move to run in the Nakhon Si Thammarat by-election in February has outraged members of the Democrat Party with links to Thailand’s southern provinces. The Democrat MPs responded saying that PPRP is not honouring etiquette between coalition allies.

General Prawit Wongsuwan, deputy prime minister and leader of the PPRP, said on Thursday that they are still discussing if they will field candidates for the two empty seats in Songkhla and Chumphon.

When reporters asked on Thursday whether fielding candidates to contest against its ally would violate political etiquette, Prawit explained that it’s up to his party to consult among themselves first.

In February, the Criminal Court handed down sentences to several PDRC members, including the five, on various charges related to their protests including insurrection, criminal association, illegal assembly, and obstructing others from casting votes.

The protests, which were also calling for military intervention, eventually led to the coup that toppled an elected government and installed General Prayut Chan-ocha into premiership in 2014.

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