07/04/2023, 15.54
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Unexpected nominee becomes house speaker, sparking optimism about the government

by Steve Suwannarat

A southerner, 79-year-old Wan Muhamad Noor Matha, gets the post of speaker of the House of Representatives. Leader of Prachachat, the veteran of Thai politics is a non-divisive figure who will be called to mediate between the country’s various political factions. King Rama X urges the parties to act in "the best interest" of the people.

Bangkok (AsiaNews) – Thailand is moving towards a new prime minister and government, following parliamentary elections on 14 May won by a wide margin by parties opposed to military rule.

In his address yesterday to a joint session of parliament (National Assembly)[*] King Rama X urged lawmakers to work in the “best interest" of the country by focusing on the needs of the people and avoiding further conflicts.

The sovereign warned that divisions can only sap investors’ confidence at a time of economic uncertainties and weaken excessively inward-looking ruling elites, whose role, goals and abilities are being questioned by more and more Thais.

Unexpectedly but like on a cue, the two largest parties of the new majority – Move Forward (Phak Kao Klai) led by Pita Limjaroenrat and the For Thais Party  (Phak Phuea Thai) of the Shinawatra family – agreed this morning on a single nominee for the post speaker of the House of Representatives, the lower house.

Wan Muhamad Noor Matha was easily elected speaker of the House of Representatives and ex officio president of the National Assembly. The 79-year-old Wan Noor heads the National Party (Prachachat), also in the opposition until last month’s election.

A veteran politician, he hails from the south, home to a sizable Muslim population, a region troubled by tensions over local autonomy and identity.

But above all, the new speaker is a non-divisive figure. As head of parliament, he will have to reach out to pro-military parties. Although much weakened, the latter can count on the support of the 250-member military-appointed Senate.

As it gets ready for 14 July when the full parliament meets to choose the new prime minister, the new ruling coalition has shown that, by choosing an outsider, it can manage its internal differences and remain engaged in dialogue.

In the House of Representatives, the eight-party coalition dominated by Move Forward and For Thais party can count on 312 votes out of 500, far short of the 376 (out of 750) needed to pick the new head of government.

Getting at least 64 senators to agree to their pick will be difficult, but the leaders of the new ruling coalition are optimistic.

[*] The National Assembly includes the House of Representatives and the Senate.

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