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Shinawatras likely to keep things all in the family

Publication Date : 02-10-2012


Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra is at a crossroads. One path would allow her true leadership to shine, while the other would see her remain a puppet.

Yingluck will soon make her choices in regard to a new line-up for the Cabinet. At today's Cabinet meeting, a prime ministerial order is expected to be debated and approved to dispense assignments in the wake of Yongyuth Wichaidit's exit.

Yongyuth's previous responsibilities for the interior portfolio, the position of deputy prime minister and other ad-hoc assignments will be reassigned to other Cabinet members.

PM's Office Minister Nivatthamrong Boonsongpaisal may become the caretaker at the Interior Ministry, or an alternative is Deputy Interior Minister Chuchart Hansawat.

Yongyuth's ad-hoc assignments will be given to Nivatthamrong.

Two deputy prime ministers, Chalerm Yoobamrung and Yuthasak Sasiprapha, will oversee work previously assigned to their former colleague Yongyuth.

Chalerm is likely to become the senior-most deputy who will be designated as acting prime minister should the need arise.

The work reassignment is seen as a stop-gap measure allowing the government to function until a successor for Yongyuth is appointed.

Because Yongyuth is entangled in a complex web of legal wrangling in connection with the Alpine land case, his chance for a speedy settlement of disciplinary, criminal and constitutional issues looks very slim. So, the possibility of him rejoining the Cabinet in the foreseeable future is nil.

His exit virtually forces PM Yingluck to reveal her leadership and play a bigger role in picking key ministers in her Cabinet.

According to insiders at Government House and in the Pheu Thai Party, four scenarios have emerged, anticipating how Yingluck will finalise her decisions.

In the first scenario, the prime minister will opt for a limited change by naming the new interior minister.

Close aides said Yingluck is likely to choose this option in order to avoid party infighting.

Among top contenders for the job is Pheu Thai manager Phumtham Wechayachai. An alternative choice is PM's Office Minister Nivatthamrong.

Regardless of who gets the job, real control over the ministry will remain within the family with collective decisions by Yingluck, her brother Thaksin and their sister Yaowapha Wongsawat.

Under the second scenario, the Cabinet will see a minor shuffle involving the Interior portfolio and a deputy prime minister's position.

If Yingluck chooses this option, Deputy Prime Minister Yuthasak is likely to become an odd man out.

Candidates to replace him include Thai Rak Thai veteran Pongthep Thepkanchana and retired national police chief Priewpan Damapong.

Under the first or second scenario, Yingluck will have a complete say in the matter.

Thaksin and Yaowapha will not veto whatever decision she makes because candidates for the job are also their loyal allies.

Limited change means she is fully in charge and can thwart pressure from various Pheu Thai factions to overhaul the ministerial line-up.

Under a third scenario, Yingluck may have to make a limited concession to factional demands. This would result in a mini reshuffle involving several portfolios.

If this happens, the ruling party should brace for repercussions from a fierce struggle between two groups of allies - Thai Rak Thai veterans and Pheu Thai regional bigwigs.

The fourth and final scenario is that party infighting will spiral out of control. If this occurs, it would prompt a major reshuffle in order to shore up government stability.

However, the last two scenarios appear unlikely to happen at this juncture.


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