As is often (perhaps always) the case when a prime minister calls early elections, there is not just an inter-party dynamic at work in Thailand, but also an intra-party dynamic. Going to an early election is often an attempt to reinforce the leader’s authority within his own party.
Certain figures in the Thai Rak Thai Party have advised the premier to step down as a way out of the ongoing political crisis, a source in the TRT said yesterday.
The TRT figures believe that with the premier resigning, the governing party would be able to maintain most of the status quo, while placating the anti-Thaksin campaigners focused on bringing him down because of the Shin Corp sell-off scandal, according to a source.
The article was written before Thaksin’s dissolution of parliament, and it noted:
The TRT source said that if forced to choose, Thaksin would favour House dissolution rather than resignation.
That Rak Thai MP Chalermchai Ulankul said yesterday that dissolving the House without first amending the charter would leave many problematic issues unsettled.
I have seen a few references to proposals for constitutional amendments, including the one in that last sentence. However, I have not yet seen what those proposals are.
Finally, in the event Thaksin is forced to resign (which still looks unlikely):
… there is a limited list of possible successors. The Constitution requires that the prime minister must be an elected member of Parliament, so one of TRTâ€™s top 10 party-list MPs is likely to replace Thaksin.
Political pundits said possible candidates were Deputy PM and Industry Minister Suriya Jungrungreangkit, who is No 2 on the list, Education Minister Chaturon Chaisaeng, fourth on the list, and House Speaker Bhokin Bhalakula, ninth on the list.
They said while Suriya is the first candidate, he is the worse possible choice. Suriya leads the Wang Nam Yom faction, which has more than 100 MPs, making it the second biggest faction in the ruling party. Thaksin has realised that Suriyaâ€™s faction is too big to control.
This news story is a reminder that, while the TRT may be dominant over the other parties and Thaksin may be a “strong” leader over the party, it remains internally divided. Thai parties have long been factionalized. The change in electoral system (from multi-seat plurality to MMM/parallel) since 2001 has increased both the dominance of the largest party over others (because single-seat districts and a parallel rather than compensatory PR tier give a good boost to the largest party) and the dominance of the leadership over the party’s rank and file (by eliminating intra-party electoral competition through the adoption of single-seat districts and a PR tier using closed lists). However, it has not eliminated the internal divisions, and Thaksin’s gambit is partly about reinforcing his own and his faction’s authority as the party and government cope with threats from the opposition in and outside of parliament.