Fresh from its victory in Thailand’s general election on May 14, the progressive Move Forward Party (MFP) has signed an agreement with seven other parties on a joint policy platform, including a range of ambitious policies but none of the country’s controversial legacy. Not mentioned. -Maharaj Law.
The MFP, which is led by 42-year-old businessman Pita Limjaroenrat, won an impressive victory in the election, securing an estimated 152 seats in the 500-seat House of Representatives. The 23-point agreement, presented at a press conference in Bangkok yesterday, is an attempt to lock in the support of the seven parties joining the MFP’s coalition with a view to winning the father’s election as prime minister when parliament meets. to a joint session in July.
This agreement reflects many of the radical politics of the MFP. These include plans to draft a new and genuinely democratic constitution, reverse the country’s extreme centralization of administrative power, and end peacetime military conscription. The coalition has also agreed to legalize same-sex marriage, reform the police, military, judiciary and civil service, and “repeat monopolies and support fair competition in business across all industries”. Curiously, for a progressive coalition, it plans to restore controls on the production and sale of marijuana, which were removed following decriminalization last year.
At the press conference, Pita said the agreement was “about shared values and commonalities and a shared agenda and responsibility,” according to reuters, “All parties can propose their policies but this agreement must not be violated through ministries.”
It is perhaps unsurprising that the agreement does not include the most controversial part of the MFP’s platform: a promise to amend Article 112 of the Thai Penal Code. Otherwise known as the lèse-majesté law, the provision effectively outlaws criticisms of the monarchy and carries a prison sentence of up to 15 years. In practice, it has been used to stifle any critical discussion of the monarchy’s role in Thai politics, and to help maintain a conglomerate of wealth and power.
The proposal, which emerged from youth-led mass demonstrations in late 2020 and early 2021 against whose leaders the lèse-majesté law was later employed, was a popular part of the MFP’s campaign platform. It enjoyed particularly strong support among first-time voters and other young Thais who are fed up with military rule and state-enforced deference to the monarchy.
The absence of the lèse-majesté policy from the grand coalition pact may disappoint supporters of the MFP, but it is perhaps a necessary concession to political reality. The MFP’s eight-party coalition, which includes the Phu Thai Party, the Prachachat Party, the Thai Sang Thai Party and four smaller parties, has 313 seats in the House. That’s a healthy majority, but short of the 376 parliamentary votes that would be needed to elect the beaten prime minister at a joint session of parliament in July. As a result, the party would need to persuade conservative MPs or members of the military-appointed Senate – reactionary conservatives by definition – to support its candidate for prime minister.
Given the rest of the MFP’s policy platform, lese-majesté reform would be difficult even without the pledge, and almost impossible if it is included. While open discussion of the monarchy and its role in Thai politics has become more common in recent years, it remains taboo across much of the country’s political spectrum. Thai conservatives strongly oppose any changes to Article 112, and the most extreme wing of the royalist movement is already attempting to use it as a means to disqualify PITA and the MFP from forming the next government.
Yesterday, ultra-royalist activist Suvit Thongprasert filed a petition with the Election Commission, arguing that the MFP’s stance on lèse-majesté tantamounts to an attempt to overturn Thailand’s constitutional monarchy, and requested that it disband the party. Faced with such legal challenges, even parties inside the MFP’s coalition have refused to support anything perceived as an attack on the palace.
The Bangkok Post, citing a source close to the alliance talks, reported yesterday That the agreement was revised at the request of coalition partners including Pheu Thai, stating that “missions from the MFP-led government should not affect the democratic system with the king as head of state and his prestige”. Shouldn’t affect the situation.” The king who cannot be violated.
According to Reuters, Pita said yesterday that he did not think his party’s effort to reform Article 112 would prove an obstacle to support from the Senate. “We have a team to explain how to modify it so that it is not used as a political tool … It will ease the concern of senators,” he said. told reporters, While this remains to be seen, it is clear that the issue of lèse-majesté will make this more difficult.
All that said, it is no surprise that the MFP has opted to postpone the lez-majesté reform in order to preserve the remainder of the agenda that propelled the party to its victory on 14 May. But even if there is no action on Article 112 under PITA’s prime ministership, it is clearly not the end of the story. The door to reform of the lese-majeste provision, and perhaps more broadly the monarch’s powers and privileges, has forced a rift since 2020, and the issue is being openly debated for the first time in decades. The coming years may bring another development in Thai politics that brings such a policy within the realm of the possible.