Thai king inaugurates parliament as Move Forward looks to lead new government


By Chayut Setboonsarng and Panu Wongcha-um

BANGKOK (Reuters) – Thailand’s King Maha Vajiralongkorn inaugurated the opening of parliament on Monday, setting the stage for an attempt by the progressive Move Forward Party to form a government after its surprise election win six weeks ago.

Move Forward won big support from youth voters and the capital Bangkok, campaigning overwhelmingly on social media on an anti-establishment platform that could complicate its effort to win enough support to form a coalition government.

It will team up in parliament with the populist heavyweight Pheu Thai Party after the two won the lion’s share of seats, trouncing parties allied with a royalist military that has controlled government since a 2014 coup.

The two are part of an eight-party alliance and have played down talk of a rift over the house speaker post, which could determine the passage of flagship legislation and timing of key votes.

Late on Monday, in what is being seen as a compromise between Move Forward and Pheu Thai, the alliance nominated veteran politician Wan Muhamad Noor Matha for house speaker and gave a deputy speaker position each to the two main parties.

Wan Noor, 79, of the Prachachart Party has been closely allied with Pheu Thai in the past, and served in its administration led by billionaire Thaksin Shinawatra between 2002 and 2005.

Parliament is expected to endorse the speaker on Tuesday.

Analysts say a Move Forward-led government is still not a certainty.

The speaker is expected later this month to table a joint session of parliament to decide on a prime minister, which requires the votes of more than half of the 750 members of the bicameral legislature.

The alliance is backing Move Forward leader Pita Limjaroenrat, 42, to become premier and Pita needs 376 votes to secure the post. He currently has 312.

He will need 64 more votes from either rival parties or members of a conservative-learning Senate that was appointed under the military and has previously locked horns with Move Forward over some of its policies.

Pita last week said he had secured enough support in the Senate. He also faces an investigation for breaching election rules, which could further complicate his bid, Kiatkwankul said.

“Worst-case, they become a formidable opposition … No matter how it turns out, it is not the end of Move Forward and democratic forces,” he added.

(Additional reporting by Panarat Thepgumpanat; Editing by Martin Petty, Kanupriya Kapoor)

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