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Unveiled: Power Plays and Expulsions Unsettle Thailand’s Political Landscape – Is Democracy at Stake?

In a recent chat with the media, the heralded House Speaker, Wan Muhamad Noor Matha, expressed some timely anticipations. The date was July 10, 2023, and Matha aired his fervent expectations for the imminent appointment of a new opposition leader within the House of Representatives. The shift in power seemed possible now, sitting on the heels of the Move Forward Party (MFP)’s internal happenings, notably the election of their new leader Chaithawat Tulathon and the ousting of Padipat Suntiphada.

Primer on the MFP’s recent updates: They’d chosen Chaithawat Tulathon as the fresh face to head their party, alongside a redefined executive committee. They’d yet had an unceremonious expulsion of Mr. Padipat, erstwhile Up-and-Comer in Phitsanulok, and the first deputy House speaker. Ostensibly, poor Mr. Padipat was shown the door to clear the way for the upcoming opposition leader, Mr. Chaithawat.

With the rules laid down in Section 106 of the 2017 constitution, this opposition leader comes from the party with the most significant representation in the segment. None of this party’s representatives should be serving in roles within the ministry’s cabinet or as the House’s speaker or deputy speaker.

Mr. Matha, during his chat, clarified a vital point. Despite getting the boot from MFP, Padipat was still free to fulfill his obligations as the first deputy House speaker as he sifts around for a new political party to represent. As per the Political Party Act, an MP that has been expelled has 30 days to find a new political party. Interestingly, Thai Sang Thai and Fair, two opposition parties, have opened their arms to welcome our ageing political maverick, Padipat.

This reshuffling within the MFP, with Mr. Padipat’s long-foreseen expulsion, is essentially a tactical maneuver. The party is evidently taking active steps to maintain it holds over the Deputy House speaker’s position, simultaneously gearing to play a more prominent role as a main opposition party.

From the Speaker’s perspective, it’s mandatory for the MFP to report to the Election Commission (EC) regarding its decision to expel Mr. Padipat. The EC is also expected to approve Mr. Chaithawat’s installation as the new leader of MFP for an opposition leader to be appointed swiftly.

Many are interested in understanding if a conflict might arise with the new deputy House speaker from the opposition faction, especially regarding a potential overhaul of Section 112 of the Criminal Code. Mr. Matha, however, remained sanguine, stating that the appointed deputy House speakers, regardless of their faction, must uphold their duties as directed by House decrees.

Mr. Matha tactfully sidestepped a pointed question about the rationale behind former member Padipat’s expulsion from the MFP, stating that the decision was made within the party. Some critics have been debating if this expulsion might trigger a constitutional court ruling for legal review. However, the Speaker chose to remain silent, citing that such an event is yet to unfold.

Senator Wanchai Sornsiri found this series of events concerning and he minced no words while expressing his views about the MFP’s conduct. According to him, the MFP, despite preening up as a moral pinnacle, behaved no differently from the other power-hungry parties. He deemed the expulsion simply as a tactic to retain the deputy House speaker’s seat and insisted that the MFP should uphold political ethics and morality.

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