BANGKOK — A junta-led committee has selected a group of shortlisted candidates for the junta to appoint as unelected senators, a deputy prime minister said Friday.
Only 194 of the 400 candidates will be selected as Thailand’s next senators, who will have the authority to vote for the next prime minister and block any laws brought forward by the lower house, Wissanu Krea-ngam said, without naming any of the candidates.
The selection committee was led by deputy junta chairman Prawit Wongsuwan. The candidates will be selected in the final round by Prawit’s superior, junta leader Prayuth Chan-ocha.
Fifty other senators will be chosen directly by the junta, while the rest of the seats go to commanders of the armed forces. The full names of the senators will be announced three days after the general election, set for March 24, and the list will then be submitted to His Majesty the King for approval, Wissanu said.
Though the names were not announced, some media reports say the candidate pool is stacked with army men close to Gen. Prayuth.
Speaking at a Saturday campaign rally, Pheu Thai PM candidate Sudarat Keyuraphan slammed the process as a blatant effort by the junta to choose its own yes-men. On the contrary, Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva said he doesn’t care about who selects the senators as much as what they will do.
“They should respect the will of the people,” Abhisit said. “Whichever party has more than 250 MP seats should be the one forming the government.”
Under the current charter, 500 MPs and 250 senators will vote for the next prime minister together. Critics of the junta fear the upper house will simply vote for Prayuth, who appointed them to power in the first place.
If their accusation is proven correct, Prayuth – nominated as the next premier by Phalang Pracharat Party – will only need 126 MPs on his side to continue his rule.