Thai Constitutional Court could ban election winner

(Update: adds Court’s decision, edits lede)

Bangkok, Jul 12 (EFE).- Thailand’s Constitutional Court on Wednesday accepted a complaint filed by the country’s Election Committee that could disqualify Pita Limjaroenrat, leader of the party that won the May elections, from becoming prime minister.

The Election Committee accuses Pita’s Move Forward of “trying to overthrow” the country’s democratic system, which could lead to the party being dissolved and its leaders disqualified.

The complaint – filed the day before parliament meets to elect the prime minister in a session where Pita is the only candidate – relates to the party’s proposal to reform lese majeste, a law that shields the all-powerful monarchy from criticism, according to a statement from the Constitutional Court.

The party, which has 15 days to respond to the court, is accused of “attempting to overthrow the democratic system with His Majesty the king as head of state,” according to Article 49 of the Constitution.

The Court’s decision comes on the same day that it accepted another complaint against Pita for allegedly holding shares in a media outlet, which is prohibited by electoral rules and which could lead to a penalty of up to 10 years in prison and his disqualification for 20 years.

If Pita is disqualified, Thailand could hold another round of elections, interim Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said in early June.

Pita heads a coalition of eight parties, including his Move Forward party, which makes 312 of the 500 deputies to the lower house, elected in the polls held on May 14.

But that large majority in the lower house is not enough for Pita to be appointed Thailand’s next prime minister, since the 250 members of the senate – who were handpicked by the former military junta – also participate in the selection process.

Move Forward, whose campaign promoted democratic reforms in the country, does not have many sympathizers in the senate, which could affect Pita’s chances.

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. EFE


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