In the last week, there have been several disturbing references by senior political figures on the government side to the possibility of further extra-constitutional outcomes or a coup d’état in the country particularly linked to the return of the Thaksin family to power in Thailand or the use of street protests by members of the public in response to Constitutional Court decisions with a verdict due on the fate of suspended Prime Minister Prayut Chan ocha on September 30th and also a decision on the legal basis for conducting the country’s next General Election as the court, last week, unanimously took up a case challenging the electoral laws controversially passed by parliament in August.
The latest National Institute of Development Administration (NIDA) poll shows the opposition parties still on target to win the next General Election although, in the last three months, the combined vote of the leading parties has dropped substantially while support for the governing coalition parties has not improved with the Bhumjaithai Party of Deputy Prime Minister Anutin Charnvirakul significantly down to only 2.3% or less than a quarter of what the party polled in 2019. The polls still show the daughter of Thaksin Shinawatra, Paetongtarn Shinawatra as the public’s favourite choice for prime minister after the election which is due to be held between January 2023 and May 7th 2023 at the latest.
The daughter of former Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra remains the country’s first choice for prime minister after the next election which will take place on May 7th next or possibly up to four months earlier in January 2023 if the House of Representatives is dissolved later this year after the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Bangkok.
Earlier, in the summer, the acting Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan and other insiders strongly suggested this as a possibility.
Big winner in his poll is Thai Sang Thai Party leader Khunying Sudarat Keyuraphan who is back in play
The latest news from an authoritative National Institute of Development Administration (NIDA) poll conducted by telephone with a representative sample of 2,500 interviewees from September 17th last to Wednesday the 21st.
It shows Paetongtarn Shinawatra with the support of 21.6% of those polled, down significantly from 25.28% at the end of June with Pita Limjaroenrat, the leader of the progressive Move Forward Party on 10.56% also down from June’s figure of 13.24% while again in third, the currently suspended Prime Minister Prayut Chan ocha who polled 10.12% compared to 11.68% three months ago.
A big winner in the new poll is the former Pheu Thai Party strategist and cabinet minister Khunying Sudarat Keyuraphan who came in fourth with 9.12% while her Thai Sang Thai Party also moved up slightly with a vote of 3.04%.
Khunying Sudarat has always either led or been second place in this poll over the past four years up to this year when Paetongtarn Shinawatra emerged as a possible candidate for the Pheu Thai Party.
Loss of nearly 12% for top opposition parties but no gain for leading coalition parties in government
The poll showed the Pheu Thai Party commanding 34.44% of the vote together with 7.56% for the Move Forward Party bringing the two main opposition parties plus Khunying Sudarat’s Thai Sang Thai Party to 45.04% which represents a significant drop from June’s poll which showed a combined poll tally of 57.2%.
At the same time, it does not appear the main coalition parties in government have gained considerably with the Palang Pracharat Party only polling 5.56%, the Bhumjaithai Party a very disappointing 2.3% and the Democrat Party holding its own at 7.56%.
The poor showing of the Bhumjaithai Party was bettered marginally by its leader Anutin Charnvirakul who polled 2.4% making him the 6th most popular preference for prime minister with only 2.4% of those polled, in a group of 6 potential leaders, all polling in a range between 1.9% and 2.4%.
The result is possibly based on his high profile in the media.
In recent weeks, many analysts have been suggesting an improvement in the fortunes of the Democrat Party, the oldest political party in the kingdom.
The poll will be very disappointing news for acting Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan whose governing party polled poorly with General Prawit failing to make any impact at all.
The government leader failed to make it into the top 13 being counted as an also-ran among a dozen or so other leaders who polled a combined 3.12%.
Latest date for General Election is May 7th 2023
The polls will be seen as encouraging for former Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak who came in 12th with 1.92% although his newly established Future Thai Party (FTI) did not make a substantial showing in the polls
With Thailand entering into a 180-day period of campaigning with strict restrictions imposed by the Election Commission and a provisional date of May 7th set for a General Election providing the House of Representatives is not dissolved by the prime minister before March 23rd next which represents a full term, political parties have moved into overdrive and semi campaigning mode throughout the kingdom.
Minister Anutin’s Bhumjaithai Party is gung ho and reported to be targeting 100 seats but may be lucky to obtain over a dozen based on this poll result
On Friday, September 23rd, Deputy Prime Minister Anutin Charnvirakul told a gathering of his Bhumjaithai Party for a dinner in Khon Kaen it was going into fighting mode and that it would not relax until after the next General Election after which it hoped to return victorious to the House of Representatives.
‘The Bhumjaithai Party is a down-to-earth party. No matter how much it rains, the party leader will stand by the side of the party. We can all be exposed to the sun, the wind and the rain. The only thing we can do is walk into the council six months from now. We will be in battle mode until we win. We will only be bringing live members of the House of Representatives and we will definitely win,’ he assured the party faithful.
The Bhumjaithai Party has played an outsized role in the government since the last election in 2019 when it polled 10.33% of the poll and was returned with 51 seats taking several senior cabinet seats and playing a key role in the now-ended pandemic emergency as well its quest to legalise cannabis or marijuana something it has achieved albeit under still controversial circumstances.
The party is facing headwinds in southern Thailand for its stance on cannabis while the latest polls appear to show that talk of 100 seats in the next House of Representatives may be well off the mark with the party being lucky to possibly obtain a dozen seats based on its current poll support.
Fate of voting laws passed controversially by parliament likely to be a decisive factor in who wins the next General Election as top court takes up case
The key thing to watch now is the fate of the new voting laws controversially passed by the House of Representatives based on the draft bill in August due to a lack of quorum on a key issue.
The law passed by a parliamentary procedure is based on a two-ballot General Election poll, one for 400 constituency seats and one for 100 party list seats based on a quota system created by a divisor of 100 on the national vote.
An alternative to this using a divisor of 500 which would have had the same effects as the one-ballot poll method used in the last election was defeated by the move in August although such a provision had been voted through the month before.
Basis for next election may be governed by decree leaving the General Election result also open to Constitutional Court review if law is not confirmed
Last week, on Wednesday, September 21st the Constitutional Court voted unanimously to take up a case opposing the organic voting laws passed.
This objection was submitted by 105 MPs of smaller parties in parliament with the judges giving 15 days for interested parties to supply information for consideration by the court on the matter.
If the bill passed by parliament is found to be unconstitutional it can be sent back to the Electoral Commission and ultimately parliament for redrafting.
However, political observers are sceptical about whether a new bill can be agreed upon in time leaving the practical basis for the next General Election unclear.
One option being suggested is that a decision by the cabinet or executive degree would be promulgated. This is, of course, something which could later be questioned in another court challenge.
Disturbing references being made to the possibility of further political instability and a new coup d’état in Thailand by senior political figures in recent days
At the same time, the decision by the Constitutional Court expected on September 30th on the future of General Prayut Chan ocha as prime minister, based on the 8-year term limit provision in the 2017 Constitution, may prove to be a spark for street protests.
Minister of Digital Economy and Society Ministry Chaiwut Thanakhamanusorn warned, on Sunday, that protest activity could endanger the prospects of any future elections in Thailand as he urged would-be protesters to remain calm.
The remarks are not the first reference to unconstitutional consequences in recent weeks.
On September 19th, Seksakol Atthawong, a former Pheu Thai Party member and recently Vice Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office under General Prayut, defended the 2006 coup d’état saying it was the right thing for the military to do in September that year when it removed Thaksin Shinawatra as prime minister.
The politician, known for his aggressive pronouncements as ‘Rambo Isan’, warned that similar moves may again be necessary if the Thaksin family again comes to power in Thailand.