| 1 December 2023, Friday |

Thai king appoints Srettha as new prime minister after vote

Thailand’s King Maha Vajiralongkorn designated Srettha Thavisin as the new prime minister of the nation. He instructed him to assemble a fresh government during a ceremony that was publicly televised.
The Thai parliament voted a day earlier to elect Srettha of the Pheu Thai party as the country’s new prime minister, after a monthslong deadlock since the progressive Move Forward Party (MFP) secured the biggest number of seats in May’s polls.

Srettha needed 375 votes in total from the country’s combined upper and lower houses to secure the prime minister position.

Pheu Thai, which came second in the election, had initially allied itself with the MFP, alongside six other parties. However, it decided earlier in August to seek a new alliance excluding the MFP, whose candidate for prime minister was blocked at least twice.

Pheu Thai now heads an 11-party coalition, including two parties allied with its former military adversaries.

Under Thailand’s military-implemented constitution, both the lower and upper houses of parliament vote together for the prime minister.

Why was there a political deadlock?
Wowing voters with plans to reform the country’s tough royal defamation laws and dismantle business monopolies, the MFP won the support of young and urban Thais weighed down by years of military rule.
However, the party’s aspirations crashed on the rock of the kingdom’s powerful establishment.

The Senate, whose members were handpicked by the last junta, blocked the MFP’s candidate for the prime minister seat.

Several other parties refused to support any government involving the MFP, forcing the highest claimant of seats back into the opposition.

Voting came as ex-PM Thaksin sentenced
Tuesday’s vote came hours after former Prime Minister and Pheu Thai party founder Thaksin Shinawatra was sentenced by the Supreme Court to eight years of imprisonment.

Thaksin was quickly arrested and taken to the Supreme Court after he returned to Thailand on Tuesday following 15 years in exile. His sentence is said to be based on past convictions he had obtained in absentia.

On Wednesday, officials said Thaksin was hospitalized after developing high blood pressure as he spent his first night in prison.

He had formed the Thai Rak Thai in 1998, which later came to be known as Pheu Thai party.

Speculations around the timing of his choice to return from exile have risen, with some suspecting that the Pheu Thai party had made a deal with other parties and a pardon for him was part of it.

Thaksin was ousted in a coup 17 years ago, driving him into self exile.

Srettha, the new prime minister, is now considered the face of Thaksin’s political movement.

  • DW