Monday, January 07, 2008

EC holds the key to party dreams


EC holds the key to party dreams


While Democrat secretary-general Suthep Thuagsuban dreams what appears to be an impossible dream of the Democrats becoming the core party to form an alternative coalition government to include all parties except the People Power party, PPP leader Samak Sundaravej's dream of becoming Thailand's 25th prime minister is so close yet so far away. A PPP-led coalition of Ruam Jai Thai Chart Pattana, Matchimathipataya and Pracharaj, which together would command 254 votes in parliament, had appeared to be unstoppable even without Chart Thai and Puea Pandin which would give the coalition a comfortable majority of 315 votes.

That was until last Thursday when the Election Commission (EC) announced the official outcome of the Dec 23 election, which saw the poll results of 65 MPs-elect from the PPP suspended pending an investigation into alleged poll fraud.

Although not final, the EC's decision to withhold endorsement of 65 winning PPP candidates has jeopardised the PPP's prospects of forming the next government.

Reactions from PPP heavyweights toward the EC announcement of the poll results clearly illustrate the party's serious concern. Samak repeated his unsubstantiated allegations of a dirty hand attempting to block his party from forming the government.

Surapong Suebwonglee, party secretary-general, implied that the EC was biased against the PPP, saying he was curious why the figure of the party's MPs-elect who failed to receive EC endorsement was close to that earlier predicted by the Democrats.

While the EC's decision has weakened the position of the PPP, it has strengthened the bargaining power of the Chart Thai and Puea Pandin parties which are yet to officially announce their decisions about joining the PPP-led coalition.

Suppose, in the end, half of the 65 MPs-elect of the PPP are red-carded by the EC, the PPP-led coalition could collapse because it would run short of the simple majority needed to survive an opposition onslaught in the House. In which case, the Democrats, who have been waiting anxiously on the sidelines, would emerge as the core party to form an alternative coalition.

But whether the coalition is to be led by the PPP or the Democrat party, the inclusion of both Chart Thai and Puea Pandin is crucial for the coalition's stability.

Which explains why a shrewd veteran politician like Chart Thai leader Banharn Silpa-archa has been hesitant to make known his decision about which camp he will side with.

Aside from determining the final tally of PPP seats in the House, there are other obstacles the party will have to overcome to realise its dream to lead the government.

Serious election fraud cases still pending with the EC, such as the alleged distribution of Thaksin Shinawatra VCDs which, if substantiated, will be a devastating blow for the party. Also, the Supreme Court has accepted a case filed by Democrat Chaiwat Sinsuwong, accusing the PPP of being a nominee of the dissolved Thai Rak Thai party and seeking to nullify the election.

All taken into account, the PPP's road to Government House is strewn with obstacles. The race between the PPP and the Democrat party to form the government, which appeared to be over, remains open. That explains why Suthep is still humming the old favourite, The Impossible Dream, while his party leader, Abhisit Vejjajiva, may have already given up hope.

As for Samak's aspirations to become the next prime minister, he has to wait until the EC comes up with the final verdicts on the fate of his 65 MPs-elect. However, well-known astrologer Warin Buaviratlert, whose service was occasionally sought by members of the Council for National Security, predicts Samak will not become premier. Whether or not his prediction comes true remains to be seen.

But for the time being, the happiest man is probably Banharn who is waiting for a carriage to take him to Government House. There is no fear he will miss the last train.

Veera Prateepchaikul is Deputy Editor-in-Chief, Post Publishing Co Ltd.

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