Prawit denies backroom dealing to scuttle tomorrow’s vote, adds Prayut to remain Premier into next election

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Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the ruling Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) Prawit Wongsuwan denied allegations that he ordered MPs from his party and junta-appointed senators to boycott parliament meeting tomorrow, while admitting that his party would continue to put forward General Prayut Chan-o-cha as the next candidate for the Prime Ministership.

“There is no such thing as Prawit’s senators or Prayut’s senators because the senators were picked by a committee,” he told reporters when asked about the allegation that PPRP’ MPs are lobbying for senators to boycott the meeting.

All 250 senators were appointed by a committee that was led by Gen. Prawit during the junta era that was set up after the 2014 coup that ousted an elected government.

“There is also no special instruction for PPRP’s MPs to join the meeting tomorrow because it is up to them,” he said.

Parliament was set to hear the draft bill to amend the calculation method for party-list MPs on Wednesday.

The bill to use 500 as a divisor for list-MPs already passed its 2nd reading but if it does not pass its 3rd reading by tomorrow, the bill will expire, and the electoral rule will revert back to using 100 as a divisor under the current 2 ballot system.

Using 100 as a divisor would benefit large parties including PPRP and the main opposition Pheu Thai Party.

Pheu Thai Party’s leader Cholnan Srikaew said last week that there are MPs who are intentionally skipping parliament meeting sessions over the past weeks to force the bill to be dropped.

The PPRP and the Democrat Party were pushing for the amendment, and they have successfully pushed it through the 2nd reading but the ruling party later changed its mind because they believe the amendment would no longer benefit them.

Small parties, such as the Seri Ruam Thai party which would benefit if the electoral is changed, now believe that PPRP and Pheu Thai are working together to boycott tomorrow’s parliament meeting in order to let the bill die its own death.

The bill, if not passed within 180 days, by law would cease to exist.

Prawit denied this allegation as well

“There is no deal with Pheu Thai,” he said. “How can I be dealing with anyone when I am travelling all the time and when I get home, I go to sleep. There is no deal with anybody because I did not meet with anyone.”

However, he did not deny that PPRP and Pheu Thai could be working together in the future.

“This is a matter for the future,” he said. “I do not know about the potential right now and there is a need to look at the result of the general election first,” he said.

Somchai Srisutthiyakorn, a member of the opposition Seri Ruam Thai party, warned on Monday that he will file a petition to the National Anti-Corruption Commission to investigate MPs who skipped parliament meetings without proper cause.

However, Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said that such a move is not against the law and it is just a part of the political game.

“It is a parliament game that has been used before such as walking out or forcing for the lack of quorum, but it is not against the rules because it is a part of parliament’s arsenal which is usually used when parliamentarians do not agree with something,” he said.

Prayut’s Extended Term

General Prawit, who is famous for borrowing millions of dollars worth of watches from his dead friend, said that his friend and 2014 coup leader General Prayut still has 2-more years to be Prime Minister and therefore his party would continue to support Prayut to be the candidate for Prime Minister during the next general elections.

He said on Tuesday that the ruling PPRP will continue to support Prayut until his term officially ends and denied that he is looking to be the next premier.

“It is not up to the PPRP, everything is up to Prayut and if his term has yet to reach the 8 years limit, he will continue to do his duty and when his term ends, we will see who will be next candidate,” he said.

“Prayut might continue to be prime minister for another 2 years,” he said.

When will Prayut’s term end is currently debatable as lawmakers cannot agree on when his term started.

According to the constitution, a premier can only stay in power for up to 8 years.

Opposition parties and Prayut’s critics argued that his premiership term started since August 2014, just 3-month after the coup that he led against the elected government of Former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. 

However, coalition parties and Prayut’s supporters say that his tenure started when the current junta-drafted charter came into effect in April 6, 2017. This means that he would be able to serve until April 2025.

Six opposition parties led by Cholnan said last week that they will file a petition to ask the Constitutional Court to rule on Prayut’s premiership term limit either on August 16 or 17, a week before August 24 when they believe Gen Prayut’s tenure should expire.

When asked whether the PPRP will nominate Prawit as the next premier if the Constitutional Court ruled that Prayut’s term should end this month, Prawit said it would be up to the party’s members to decide, not only him.

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