Thai Premier Survives No-Confidence Vote Amid Party Infighting
(Bloomberg) -- Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha survived a no-confidence vote in parliament, his second this year amid criticisms of the government’s handling of the pandemic and infighting within his ruling party.
Prayuth received 264 confidence votes from lawmakers on Saturday, while 208 voted against him, a televised broadcast of the parliament proceedings showed. Five other ministers including deputy premier and Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul, who faced the no-confidence motions, also received backing from the majority of lawmakers.
Over the past four days, opposition lawmakers censured Prayuth and his top ministers, saying they mismanaged the economic assistance programs, virus containment measures and the vaccination rollout. While Thailand’s daily infections have come down from a peak of over 20,000 cases, just about 13% of 70 million people are fully inoculated -- well below a global average of about 28%, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
This is the third attempt by the opposition to unseat the government since the 2019 elections, with attempts failing as Prayuth’s coalition holds about 60% of parliament seats. An earlier no-confidence vote this year was held in February.
Still, infighting within his Palang Pracharath party may complicate matters.
“Even though the prime minister survived the vote, it doesn’t mean that the conflict between factions within his party has been resolved. It just means that the whipping for this vote was successful,” said Punchada Sirivunnabood, a visiting fellow at Singapore’s ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute. “The recent infighting suggests that it could be more difficult for Prayuth to return as premier after the next election because his popularity within his party and the public is tanking.”
Prayuth on Friday denied there was any conflict within the party leadership.
Coup leader-turned-premier Prayuth still faces a youth-led protest movement that has been demanding his resignation for more than a year over allegations the government is a continuation of his junta. Pro-democracy demonstrators have held daily gatherings for much of this week to keep the pressure on the military-backed government and Prayuth, who repeatedly said he wouldn’t quit or dissolve parliament.
Prayuth rebutted claims from the opposition, saying the government was doing its best to save lives and revive the economy despite the fast-evolving situation and budget constraints. He argued that Thailand managed the pandemic relatively well with infection and death rates lower than global averages, and that the government has provided unprecedented financial support.
“Throughout Thai history, there’s no other prime minister that helped the people like I did,” Prayuth said earlier this week at the censure debates. He pointed to various measures of support for those affected by the pandemic, and steps to prop up the tourism-dependent country by boosting public spending, consumption and exports.
Thailand relaxed some of its lockdown restrictions this month to allow for travel, as well as the reopening of restaurants and malls to gradually boost Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy. Gross domestic product contracted last year and the forecast is for a weak recovery in 2021. The move is part of the government’s “living with Covid” strategy that allows more sectors to reopen provided the healthcare system doesn’t get overwhelmed.
The country still has more than 150,000 active cases, with nearly 5,000 in critical condition. Fatalities topped 12,000 just as some of the virus curbs were eased, while over 1.2 million cases have been recorded since the start of the pandemic last year.
©2021 Bloomberg L.P.