Reformist Thai candidate Pita loses parliamentary vote for PM

(Update 1: Changes headline, reledes, adds detail throughout)

Bangkok, Jul 13 (EFE) – Progressive candidate Pita Limjaroenrat failed to garner enough support Thursday from Thailand’s bicameral parliament to become the country’s next prime minister.

Pita, who is at the helm of a broad coalition of eight parties and amassed the most votes in the recent general election, was unable to reach the 376 votes he needed to govern.

The former businessman took 312 seats in Thailand’s lower house with his coalition partners in a shock election victory in May.

He needed at least 376 votes from Thailand’s bicameral parliament which is made up of 500 members of the House of Representatives, elected in May, and 250 senators that were handpicked in 2019 by the now-defunct military.

The leader of the Move Forward party fell short of 53 votes in Thursday’s ballot.

Pita obtained the support of 310 MPs and 13 senators; while 182 parliamentarians (148 MPs and 34 senators) voted against, 198 abstained (39 MPs and 159 senators) and dozens of senators did not show up to cast their vote.

The progressive party, which has a large youth following linked to the 2020 protests that swept the country calling for reforms, seeks to implement several policies aimed at promoting democratic reform and is a vociferous opponent of many of the military’s policies rolled out in the last decade.

Following Pita’s loss, the House Speaker will table a second session on July 19 and if necessary a third on July 20.

Thursday’s session was marked by a heated backlash towards Pita’s aspiration to reform certain laws that protect the Thai royal family from any criticism which currently have penalties of up to 15 years in prison.

The vote came after two legal complaints were lodged on the eve of the vote that could lead to the dissolution of Move Forward and Pita’s disqualification.

On Wednesday, the Election Commission referred a complaint over Pita’s inheritance of shares in a media company to the Constitutional Court, which hours later accepted another complaint filed by a private party over Move Forward’s plan to amend the country’s hardline lese-majeste law.

The party has 15 days to respond to the court regarding the complaint against it, and if the same court finds that Pita violated election laws, he could face up to 10 years in prison and 20 years of political disqualification.

Allegations against the leader of Move Forward are reminiscent of the case against Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, leader of the dissolved Future Forward party – Move Forward’s predecessor – who was disqualified in 2019 when running for election that year while holding shares in a communications company.

That decision was criticized by the European Union as well as the United States and triggered massive student-led pro-democracy protests in 2020 and 2021, which formed the basis for the 14 million votes Move Forward garnered in this year’s ballot boxes.EFE


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