Senate finds balance with election of Surachai
The Senate seems to have balanced itself when it voted for appointed Senator Surachai Liengboonlers-chai as the first deputy speaker yesterday.
Surachai was elected to replace Nikom Wairatpanich, who was voted in as the Senate speaker last week.
Unlike Nikom, an elected senator from Chachoengsao who is seen as having a close relationship with the ruling Pheu Thai Party, Surachai is among the anti-Thaksin "Group of 40" senators.
Considering Surachai is a legal expert and a former charter drafter, he might have been positioned by supporters to help defuse political time bombs like the constitutional amendment and the reconciliation bill.
During his presentation, Surachai said he would push for improvement of the parliamentary database so that senators can see the issues in the bills that can be problematic. The database would also be useful for legal considerations.
Moreover, Surachai aims to improve the Senate system of coordinating with the government before making queries in parliamentary meetings. For example, if a senator wants to ask the government questions, the names of the answering parties would be designated along with the date and time they are to appear before Parliament. The Senate would then be more effective in following the government's administration, he said.
Surachai said he would promote the image of the Senate as independent from external interference.
"In one and a half years, the term of the elected senators will end. When we have a new set of elected senators, I think there should be new elections of the Senate speaker and the first and second deputy speakers," he said.
In addition to Nikom, Second Deputy Senate Speaker Pornthip Lowira Chanratanapreeda is also from the elected ranks. She represents Chaiyaphum.
Some people said Surachai's victory was not a surprise as appointed senators are quite united and Surachai is well-respected because of his role in Parliament. He has strong backing, having been appointed to the Senate in 2008 and re-appointed last year.
However, the number of votes Surachai received for first deputy were very close to that of the other candidate, Suradet Jiratiticharoen, an elected senator from Prachin Buri.
In the first round, Surachai received 35 votes and Suradet got 33, while Nonthaburi senator Direk Teungfang, another candidate supported by Nikom, received 20 votes. He was followed by appointed senator Samack Chaouvaparnante, who received 18 votes.
In the second round, when Surachai and Suradet had to win the majority for the Speaker's seat, Surachai received 73 while Suradet got 69 votes.
Presenting his vision, Suradet said he would make the most of his ability and experience to facilitate and promote the work of both appointed and elected senators, stressing the benefit of the country and the people. He would aim to rise above political polarisation. Like the Senate speaker-elect Nikom, Suradet said he would promote and facilitate the work of the Senate committees.
Before the vote yesterday, some analysts had said Surachai's extreme image of being opposed to Pheu Thai and Thaksin would be his weakness as some senators would prefer a neutral first deputy. Surachai is also viewed as an heir of the 2006 coupmakers.
From now on, Surachai has to focus on his role, whether he wants to please other senators and be neutral, or to pursue his own political goals.