Just cut out the chicanery

Nearly three months after Thai voters cast their ballots in what has been deemed as one of the country's most controversial elections, a new government -- a coalition with more than 20 parties -- still cannot be formed.

The long delay, apparently because of inconclusive bargaining, is worrisome.

Pledges of support from the Bhumjaithai and Democrat parties, known for their role as "kingmakers", have secured the political future of regime leader Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, who won his bid to become the 30th prime minister after a vote in a joint parliamentary meeting last Wednesday. The two parties wanted key ministries in exchange for joining the regime's coalition.

The ministries in question included commerce, agriculture and agricultural cooperatives, which involve huge budgets and place the ministers in direct contact with grassroots groups that can form a large political base that could be useful in future elections.

Gen Prayut, who awaits royal endorsement, appears to be keeping a low profile, allowing his Palang Pracharath Party as coalition leader to engage with fellow politicians in the tough political cake-sharing negotiations. There are reports that a certain faction in the PPRP wants to take back some grade-A cabinet positions that the party earlier promised to its prospective coalition partners.

It is said the PPRP, while insisting that talks are ongoing, wants to reclaim the agriculture and commerce portfolios from the Democrats and offer the education and foreign affairs ministerial posts instead. While Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak, Gen Prayut's trusted man, has played his trump card: he may abandon the new cabinet if the PPRP fails to control all key economic ministries.

However, both the Bhumjaithai and Democrat have refused to budge, saying the PPRP must honour the original deal.

The Democrats had no hesitation in issuing a threat to withdraw from the coalition if the PPRP fails to keep its promise. Bhumjaithai leader Anutin Charnvirakul tersely ruled out further talks, saying all deals were now closed.

While other smaller parties are willing to stick to their role as the regime's "good boys", their support in the proposed coalition is hardly enough to give the Prayut-led coalition any get up and go.

Yesterday, PPRP leader Uttama Savanayana in an attempt to downplay the wrangling over cabinet posts, told the media the ongoing bickering was just to "add colour" to politics. He has assigned secretary-general Sontirat Sontijirawong to do the talking. Few, if any, would see this in the same light.

The PPRP and other parties should realise that the longer the talking goes on, the more people will lose trust and hope in them.

This is the ugly picture of politics that is becoming increasingly uglier in the eyes of the public. Such a situation only makes people more fed up with politics and this is no good for anyone.

More importantly, politicians must realise that the country cannot afford the administrative gap to continue any longer. This delay in forming a government will only cause damage to the country as there are worries all projects earmarked for the next fiscal year will have to wait until the second quarter, or till January.

While political bargaining is not unusual in Thai politics, all parties concerned have a duty to know the limits, and play by the rules.

They should have learned from the past mistakes of not being able to reach a compromise.


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