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Thailand’s Move Forward says 19 senators backing Pita’s PM bid

ANN/THE STAR – Thailand’s Move Forward party said over a dozen senators have pledged support for Pita Limjaroenrat’s (AP, pic below) bid to become prime minister, boosting the chances of his pro-democracy coalition wresting power.

At least 19 senators have agreed to back Pita, the leader of the progressive Move Forward, and the party is confident it can secure enough numbers from the upper house to clinch the top job for the 42-year-old politician, deputy leader Sirikanya Tansakun told a briefing in Bangkok yesterday.

“The signs we’ve been getting from the Senators are positive,” said Sirikanya.

“We should be able to get enough votes to form the government.”

The support from senators brings the total number of lawmakers backing Pita to about 330, still short of the 376 needed to become prime minister in a joint voting of the the 500-member House of Representatives and the 250 unelected senators appointed by the military establishment.

Pita’s coalition of eight parties with 312 seats in the House of Representatives expects to wrap up talks on government formation in the next two weeks, according to Sirikanya.

Move Forward’s tally of seats was reduced to 151 from 152 earlier after the election commission revised results in some polling stations, according to local media.

While the coalition was making progress in rallying support from senators, there were also signs of tension brewing between Move Forward and Pheu Thai party, the second-largest party in the bloc. Sirikanya said Move Forward will not concede the House speaker’s position to Pheu Thai as it was key to its pledge to amend the constitution.

Pita’s inability to quickly muster enough support for his premier bid continued to roil Thailand’s financial markets. The baht fell as much as 0.5 per cent to a two-month low, while the benchmark stock index traded 0.1 per cent lower and the yield on benchmark 10-year bonds rose four basis points to 2.562 per cent, the highest since March 9.

Until there is a new prime minister, the caretaker government is led by Prayut Chan-O-Cha, the general who led the 2014 coup and has held power since. If no party can win majority support, he could remain in place for months to come.

Move Forward’s Sirikanya said the party is confident that Pheu Thai will stay in the alliance even if it was denied the speaker’s job.

While Pita has shown his political acumen in winning the vote and building a coalition, he’s up against a royalist establishment and military that may be unwilling to see him come to power.

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