S44 panel vote on knife-edge

Coali­tion cor­rals MPs af­ter shock de­feat


The House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives will to­day vote again on a mo­tion to set up a com­mit­tee to scru­ti­nise Sec­tion 44, af­ter the pre­vi­ous vote ended in a shock de­feat for the govern­ment fol­low­ing con­flicts within the coali­tion.

All eyes will be on to­day’s revote on the op­po­si­tion mo­tion, pro­posed by Fu­ture For­ward Party sec­re­tary-gen­eral Piyabutr Saengkanok­kul, to es­tab­lish a panel on the im­pact of or­ders is­sued un­der Sec­tion 44.

Last Wed­nes­day, the govern­ment whip in­voked par­lia­ment reg­u­la­tion No.85 to call for a new vote. The op­po­si­tion had pre­vi­ously edged the rul­ing coali­tion camp by four votes — 234-230 — with two ab­sten­tions and one ab­sen­tee.

The revote pro­posal prompted MPs to stage a walk­out in protest, forc­ing the ses­sion to be ad­journed due to lack of a quo­rum.

Last Thurs­day, a sec­ond revote at­tempt col­lapsed af­ter the House ses­sion failed to draw the re­quired num­ber of MPs.

This prompted core coali­tion party Palang Pracharath (PPRP) to call a meet­ing yes­ter­day in a bid to en­sure all coali­tion MPs at­tend to­day’s meet­ing and toe the govern­ment line.

The meet­ing was also at­tended by Prime Min­is­ter Prayut Chan-o-cha. He said yes­ter­day that he was not con­cerned about the pos­si­ble launch of the scru­tiny panel, rea­son­ing that Sec­tion 44 or­ders is­sued by him were in line with the law. Sec­tion 44 gave him spe­cial ex­ec­u­tive pow­ers as leader of the post-coup Na­tional Coun­cil for Peace and Or­der regime.

The govern­ment was de­feated in the first vote af­ter six Demo­crat Party MPs re­belled against the coali­tion line and voted for the op­po­si­tion mo­tion.

A Demo­crat Party source said the re­bel­lion was in re­tal­i­a­tion for the PPRP’s re­fusal to back for­mer Demo­crat leader Ab­hisit Ve­j­ja­jiva to head a House com­mit­tee to study con­sti­tu­tional amend­ments.

The PPRP wants in­stead to nom­i­nate its party-list MP Pai­boon Ni­titawan, who has the back­ing of Gen Prawit, as com­mit­tee chair­man, the source said.

The source said some Demo­crat MPs who sup­ported the mo­tion have close ties with Mr Ab­hisit, in­clud­ing Thep­thai Sen­pong, an MP for Nakhon Si Tham­marat, Chai­wuti Ban­nawat, a Tak MP, and partylist MP Panich Vik­it­sreth.

Cur­rently, the House has 498 out of its full quota of 500 MPs. Pheu Thai MP Nawat To­hcharoen­suk was dis­qual­i­fied on Nov 14 af­ter be­ing con­victed of mur­der, while PPRP law­maker Krungsriv­i­lai Suthin­puak is sus­pended from du­ties pend­ing a rul­ing by the Supreme Court’s Elec­tion Cases Di­vi­sion on al­leged vote buy­ing.

To­day’s House ses­sion re­quires a quo­rum of at least 249 MPs, half of the 498, to pro­ceed.

The coali­tion cur­rently has 253 sit­ting MPs, though three of these may not be able to at­tend the meet­ing. Chai Chid­chob, a Bhum­jaithai list MP, is ill; Kiat Sit­thi-amorn, a Demo­crat Party list MP, is re­cov­er­ing from heart by­pass surgery; and Korn Chatika­vanij, a Demo­crat list-MP, is still abroad, a govern­ment source said.

Their ab­sence would leave just 250 coali­tion MPs, putting the meet­ing at risk of col­lapse again. Govern­ment whips have thus in­sisted that all 250 coali­tion MPs at­tend to­day’s meet­ing “no matter what hap­pens”, the source said.

Deputy Prime Min­is­ter Prawit Wong­su­won, who is the PPRP’s chief strate­gist, said yes­ter­day that af­ter talks with the Democrats, he was con­fi­dent the six rebel MPs would toe the coali­tion line and that to­day’s House meet­ing will not col­lapse.

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