The Move Forward Party, best known for its radical ideas, has always been seen by its critics as being politically naïve, but it may have finally started to learn the ropes.
Pita Limjaroenrat has quit as its leader, paving the way for a new leadership to fully assume the role of opposition, but that may be only part of the new political gambit that the party is reported to be pondering.
Now, the young political party reportedly wants to have its cake and eat it.
Pita has been suspended from active legislative duty by the Constitutional Court, in connection with its ongoing deliberations over charges that he owned shares in a broadcast company when he registered for the May general election, in violation of the electoral law.
Pita said his decision to step down was designed to allow his successor to lead the opposition bloc – something he has not been able to do because of the ban. Since Move Forward is the biggest party in the opposition bloc, its leader is constitutionally entitled to the role of leader of the opposition.
The problem is, however, that such a role would be in conflict with the post of deputy House speaker, currently held by Padipat Suntiphada, a key member of the party. Under the Constitution, the same political party cannot occupy the positions of House speaker or deputy House speaker and leader of the opposition at the same time.
Does that mean Move Forward will have to make some kind of a sacrifice, choosing one or the other? The signal from the party so far, however, has been negative. Political observers believe that the party now wants the best of both worlds by assuming the opposition leadership is its first priority, but retaining the deputy House speakership for Padipat being no less important.
Move Forward members will meet to elect a new leader and executive committee this coming Saturday and there should be no surprises. The real challenge, however, is how to ensure that Padipat can continue as deputy House speaker – even under a different political banner.
There has been speculation that the new Move Forward leadership will vote to “expel” Padipat from the party, thus paving the way for him to switch to another party within 30 days to keep his MP status. If Padipat resigns from the party of his own volition, however, he would automatically lose his House membership.
Wherever Padipat goes, the deputy House speakership will go him and, standing ready to welcome Padipat, is the Fair party.
“What will happen to Khun Padipat is up to the Move Forward Party but, if he is expelled, he would be more than welcome,” Kannavee Suebsueng, the secretary general of the Fair party, told Thai PBS.
He said the Fair and Move Forward parties share the same political ideology and are political allies. Fair is one of the smaller parties in the opposition bloc, with Kannavee as its only MP.
Padipat was evasive when asked if he was prepared to join the Fair party. “I will wait for the decision of the new executive committee of the Move Forward party,” he told Thai PBS.
Speculation surrounding Padipat’s political fate has gone viral, with supporters of Move Forward divided over whether it is appropriate for the party to engage in such a political gambit, since it has always campaigned from the moral high ground.
Pheu Thai MP Khrumanit Sungpoom warned Move Forward against “playing games” which could compromise Padipat’s position as deputy House speaker.
Many of Move Forward’s supporters are, however, urging the party to “get even”, after what they believe to be a betrayal by the Pheu Thai party, which shattered the former’s dream of being the core of the post-election coalition government.
Some are also urging the party to shed its political naïveté and fight its political rivals at their own game.
By Thepchai Yong