Thai junta chief proclaimed second-time prime minister
BANGKOK (AP) — Thailand’s junta leader was officially proclaimed prime minister on Tuesday after the king endorsed Parliament’s vote for him to serve another term.
Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha knelt before a portrait of King Maha Vajiralongkorn and performed three elaborate bows during a ceremony at his government office to confirm his appointment.
Prayuth has served as prime minister since he led a military coup that toppled an elected government in 2014. The junta will cease power once a new Cabinet is inaugurated.
In a brief live televised speech after the ceremony, he pledged to “dedicate myself to public service with honesty and integrity in pursuit of the greater good of the country and the people of Thailand.”
The military government had enacted new election laws that gave Prayuth an advantage in a general election held in March. The new laws authorized a 250-member Senate, appointed by the junta, to take part in the parliamentary vote for prime minister along with an elected 500-member House of Representatives.
Prayuth did not contest the election but won last week’s joint parliamentary vote, 500-244, against Future Forward party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit. All junta-appointed senators voted for Prayuth to lead the next government, apart from the Senate speaker, who abstained from voting in line with custom.
Critics have expressed doubt whether a government led by Prayuth can fare well in a parliamentary framework, with the parliamentary vote indicating that his coalition has only marginal control over the House, which passes laws and approves budgets.
Prayuth’s coalition government includes 18 political parties whose leaders were also present for Tuesday’s ceremony.
His appointment was made official after a royal order to announce it was published in the Royal Gazette on Tuesday.
The Palang Pracharath Party, which campaigned for Prayuth to lead the next government, won the second-most seats during the March election. The party includes many former members of the military government.
Election laws that the junta introduced also weaken traditionally large political parties and the number of seats they could attain while giving seats to smaller parties with fewer votes.
The measures are seen as being directed at the Pheu Thai Party, which headed the government deposed in 2014. Pheu Thai, under various names changed for legal reasons, has won every national election since it was founded in 1998 by telecoms tycoon Thaksin Shinawatra, who is despised by the country’s conservative base, which includes the military. Thaksin himself was overthrown as prime minister in a 2006 military coup.
The March election was for 500 seats in the lower house. Of those, 350 seats are set aside for the winner of each constituency, while another 150 so-called party list seats are divided among parties based on a proportion of the overall vote derived from a complicated formula that is part of the new measures.
Pheu Thai had won the most number of seats in the election by constituency, but it was the only party to be ineligible for any party list seats.