PM exits PPRP, joins UTN

Calls for two parties to oust Pheu Thai

Supporters of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha have welcomed his decision to join the United Thai Nation (UTN) Party, saying the party should team up with the ruling Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) to boost their prospects in the next election.

Senator Somchai Swangkarn told the Bangkok Post that even though Gen Prayut has decided to part ways with the PPRP and join the UTN, it will still be in the best interests of the two parties to work together to stop the opposition camp, led by the Pheu Thai Party, from coming to power.

The PPRP and the UTN must reach an agreement on which constituencies they will field their candidates in to avoid internal rivalries and prevent Pheu Thai or the Move Forward Party from snatching votes away from them, he said.

“Gen Prayut is popular among voters in the South and Bangkok, so they must field candidates carefully. In Chon Buri, where Labour Minister Suchart Chomklin is a representative, he must ensure all House seats up for grabs will be secured,” Mr Somchai said.

As for the PPRP, one of its strengths is that several of its MPs, including the Sam Mitr faction, have large support bases in several provinces, and they have to do their best to guard their strongholds for the next poll, he said.

Mr Somchai predicted that in the next poll, the PPRP might secure slightly fewer House seats than the 125 seats it won in the last election. “It may secure at least 90 seats,” he said.

He further said if Gen Prayut is in charge of the UTN’s election campaign, and if the UTN forges alliances with the Sang Anakhot Thai Party and the Chartpattanakla Party, they are likely to secure a combined 50-60 seats.

Then, they can team up with the current coalition parties to form a coalition government after the next poll.

“But if each party opts to go their separate ways and compete against each other, the current coalition parties are likely to end up in the opposition bench after the next poll,” Mr Somchai said.

Even though Gen Prayut and Gen Prawit Wongsuwon are tipped to be nominated as the sole prime ministerial candidates of their respective parties, Mr Somchai said he believes the “two brothers in arms” can still talk things through and not quarrel over who will become the next prime minister after the upcoming poll.

Phichai Ratnatilaka Na Bhuket, a political science lecturer at the National Institute of Development Administration, told the Bangkok Post that Gen Prayut’s decision to join the UTN is expected to boost the party’s popularity ratings.

As a result, the party is likely to secure more than 25 House seats for it to nominate him as its prime ministerial candidate, as required by the constitution, he said.

However, Mr Phichai noted that Gen Prayut has failed to make a serious effort to reform the police force while many coalition MPs find Gen Prayut inaccessible, compared to Gen Prawit, who is more approachable and down-to-earth with the MPs.

“Since Gen Prayut has made his political stance clear, he can now go ahead full throttle with election campaigns and not let Pheu Thai win the election by a landslide too easily,” Mr Phichai said.

Speaking to reporters at Government House yesterday, Gen Prayut confirmed that he would join the UTN, also known as Ruam Thai Sang Chart, and expressed his readiness to be a prime ministerial candidate for the party.

Gen Prayut clarified his intentions after the PPRP, which nominated him in the 2019 general election, said it would put forward party leader Gen Prawit as its sole prime ministerial candidate.

“I have followed up on the situation regarding the nomination of prime ministerial candidates of each party. I have taken into consideration principles and a number of reasons,” he said.

“Ruam Thai Sang Chart has expressed its willingness to support me for prime minister at the next election. It is necessary that I make things clear. Otherwise, the criticism will continue, and this will cause damage.

“I said earlier that I had previously been supported by Palang Pracharath, but the party has already decided to nominate its party leader as its PM candidate.

“So, I have made a decision today. In fact, preparations have been made earlier. I decided to join Ruam Thai Sang Chart. Let’s be at ease now. In the end, it’s up to the people whether they will support me or not,” he said.