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Decisive U-Turn: Pheu Thai’s Alarming Strategy Exposes a Possible Betrayal – Could Prawit Wongsuwon Secure the Prime Ministerial Seat?

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As Srettha Thavinsin, the prime ministerial candidate for the Pheu Thai party, walked into the 15th polling station on Soi Sukhumvit 16 in vibrant Bangkok on a balmy May 14, 2023, anticipation swelled amidst his supporters. Given the political climate, it’s apparent that the followers of Pheu Thai are confident of their chosen candidate’s victory in the forthcoming vote, insiders reveal.

Despite their optimistic outlook, political forecasts have hinted at a potential turn of events. The hopeful Prawit Wongsuwon, leader of the Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP), might just emerge from the shadows as the new prime minister, backed by a substantial number of PT’s renegade MPs.

All speculation is now focused on the likely move of parliament’s president, Wan Muhamad Noor Matha, whose declaration of the prime ministerial vote’s date is eagerly anticipated. According to standard procedures, this proclamation needs to be made three days in advance; hence the likelihood of an announcement on Tuesday if a Friday vote is scheduled.

Srettha Thavinsin, the experienced PT candidate, is said to have gathered immense support from political allies through an accomplished negotiating team. Furthermore, given PT’s recent withdrawal of support from the Move Forward Party (MFP), and their controversial policy regarding Section 112 of the Criminal Code, it seems that the senators, opposed to this policy, are likely to back Thavinsin.

Yet, there’s a shade of doubt. If the senators decline to support Mr. Srettha, it might imply Pheu Thai’s betrayal, manipulating the situation to place Gen Prawit in the esteemed prime ministerial seat.

The forecast dilemma also includes a potential situation where the senators avoid any of the three Pheu Thai candidates in favour of a more ‘conservative’ counterpart, thereby consolidating the hold on the premiership. The potential beneficiaries in such a scenario might include Anutin Charnvirakul, leader of the Bhumjaithai Party, or Gen Prawit himself.

If Pheu Thai plans to use its position to elevate Gen Prawit, it could be a grim move. During the intensively waged election campaign in the middle of May, the PT executives assured a disassociation with the ‘uncle’ parties, a term associated with military leaders involved in the 2014 coup. Should Pheu Thai abandon its promises, it would be a drastic setback.

According to insiders, PT’s previous call to end party rivalry amid a unique political situation was seen as an attempt for enhanced unity. Yet, it is argued whether such a shift should have been made clear prior to the elections and the voters given a chance to voice their agreement.

In a significant move, a 40 MP group from the PPRP spoke in favour of Pheu Thai’s PM candidate. However, the long-standing red-shirt supporters renounce this collaboration due to Prawitis continued PPRP leadership. Gen Prawit’s next strategic step, as inferred by experts, is to win over rebel MPs from PT.

The constitution could take an alternative approach if parliament fails to appoint a new premier from the pre-existing party candidate lists. It’s speculated that at such a junction, half of the 750 MPs and senators may call for a motion to suspend the routine practice of choosing candidates from party lists, opening the way for a surprising outsider.

Srettha’s prospects for securing the leadership in the next prime ministers’ vote do appear dim according to Sukhum Nuansakul, a political analyst and former rector at Ramkhamhaeng University. The close relations between senators and the old power group are likely to hinder his plans.

Accusations are rife that the end goal is to secure Gen Prawit’s premiership, a situation that could spark off street protests. “The old power group wants Gen Prawit to become the next prime minister. They want to maintain the old political system and don’t want any change,” says Sukhum.

If the ‘uncle’ parties are absorbed into a PT-led government, Pheu Thai’s credibility could severely cripple. “The current situation is a battle between the existing political establishment seeking to maintain the status quo and a new generation calling for change,” explains Mr Sukhum.

Final decisions depend upon the Constitutional Court verdict relating to parliament’s rejection of MFP leader Pita Limjaroenrat’s renomination. Schedule for a Wednesday hearing, if the ruling supports Mr. Pita, a renomination would be possible.

Jatuporn Prompan, former red-shirt United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship leader, criticizes PT’s decision to involve PPRP and UTN in the coalition. This has led to considerable befuddlement among citizens regarding their political alliances and the formation of the government.

During these testing times, Pheu Thai’s leaders, Cholnan Srikaew, Ms. Paetongtarn, and Mr. Srettha, assured their audiences that they won’t be collaborating with the ‘uncle’ parties. The broken promises loom heavily and only time will tell how the political landscape will evolve in the future.

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