Bhargav Reddy – APAC Assistance Operations Assistant
Major Issues In EAST ASIA PACIFIC
WEDNESDAY, 27 March 2019
Pheu Thai and PPRP claim the right to form government. The pro-Thaksin Shinawatra Pheu Thai Party and the pro-military Palang Pracharat Party are staking claim to form a coalition government in the lower house. The Pheu Thai and at least five other so-called pro-democracy political parties, including the Future Forward Party, are set to announce their intention to form the government at the Lancaster Hotel in Bangkok this morning. The Pheu Thai party won the most number of seats, 137 out of 500 in the lower house of the parliament according to unofficial results. The other parties are the Future Forward Party (87 seats), the Thai Liberal party or Seri Ruamthai (11), the Pracharat party(6), the New Economics party(6) and the Puea Chart party (5). Together, these parties represent 252 seats, enough to form the government but fall short of the 376 required to choose the prime minister. The Pheu Thai party has said it was willing to support Anutin Charnvirakul, leader of the Bhumiathai Party, which won 39 seats, as prime minister of a coalition government.
Meanwhile, the Palang Pracharat Party’s secretary-general Sontirat Sontijirawong insisted that it was on the verge of forming a coalition government. He said the party will nominate Prayut Chan-ocha as Thailand’s next prime minister. He insisted that Palang Pracharat has the legitimacy to form the government because it won the most number of votes.
It remains unclear which political parties will form Thailand’s next government. The Pheu Thai-led coalition has the majority of seats in the lower house of the parliament, but it is far from having the required number to nominate the prime minister, even if the Bhumiathai Party joins the coalition. A Palang Pracharat-led coalition, together with the mostly military-appointed 250-strong Senate, may have the number to nominate the prime minister, but the coalition does not have the majority of seats in the Lower House. At any rate, the Bhumiathai Party is emerging as a key party for the Palang Pracharat party informing the majority coalition in the Lower House. The Bhumiathai Party is yet to pledge support to either the Pheu Thai Party or the Palang Pracharat Party.
New poll shows marginal loss of lead. Another pre-election survey released this week shows President Joko Widodo’s lead over his rival, Prabowo Subianto, has been cut though not as much as in the Kompas poll. In the Charta Politika survey, Jokowi and his running mate, Ma’ruf Amin, secured 53.6% of the votes signifying little changed from 53.2% in January. Meanwhile, Prabowo and Sandiaga Uno received 35.4% of votes, up from 34.1% in January. The president’s lead was cut to 18.2%, from 19.1% in January.
Rebels call for boycott of elections. The United Liberation Movement for West Papua has urged all Papuans in Indonesia to boycott the April 17 elections. The ULMWP Chairman Benny Wenda said the elections are not for the Papuan people but for Indonesia. The ULMWP’s call for election boycott follows similar advocacy by the Indonesian People’s Front for West Papua and the Papuan Student Alliance. The student alliance declared a boycott of the upcoming elections because both presidential candidates had not handled human rights violations in Papua well. Papua-based voters represent less than two percent of the country’s total voters. It is uncertain if the liberation movement’s call for election boycott will be heeded. In the 2014 election, Widodo garnered significantly more votes in Papua and West Papua than Prabowo.
Ceasefire will not be extended. Myanmar military spokesperson said that the military’s four-month ceasefire in the country’s northern and eastern regions, which began on December 21, will end as planned on April 21 and will not be extended. He said that the ceasefire period would have yielded more results if the armed ethnic groups had taken advantage of the opportunity to pursue peace. More conflicts are expected to rage in Myanmar. Fighting between the military and the rebel Arakan Army has been intensifying in the Rakhine State, which is excluded from the temporary ceasefire zone. More clashes are now likely in other regions of the country, undermining the National League for Democracy-led government’s peace initiative. Clients are advised to avoid Rakhine and its neighboring states as fighting between the military and ethnic rebels continues.
Supreme Court to rule on journalist’s conviction. Myanmar’s Supreme Court agreed to rule on an appeal by two Reuters reporters who have been sentenced to seven years for their coverage of Myanmar’s violent suppression of Rohingya Muslims. Justice Soe Naing adjourned the case yesterday without setting a date for the ruling. The top court’s decision gives the two reporters the chance that their conviction would be withdrawn, their jail terms would be reduced or they would face new judicial action. It remains to be seen how the top court will rule.
Mahathir disappointed with a coalition MP. The Parti Keadilan Rakyat President Anwar Ibrahim defended Permatang Puah MP Nurul Izzah Anwar over her remarks labeling Prime Minister Mohamad a former dictator. Anwar said Nurul Izzah’s remarks were directed generally against the Pakatan Harapan government and not specifically at Mahathir. Anwar said he and his family were firmly behind Mahathir’s leadership and will allow the prime minister the space he needs to carry out his policies. Anwar’s statement is both protective of his daughter and respectful of the prime minister. It again puts no pressure on Mahathir who has said he would honor his promise to transfer power to Anwar after two years as prime minister. Mahathir is yet to announce a definite plan on leaving the premiership.