Suspended from parliament, Pita Limjaroenrat will not be prime minister (for now)
In today’s session, the second since the National Assembly met, the progressive leader fell short of a majority for a second time. He now has 15 days to convince the Constitutional Court to reinstate him as a member of the House of Representatives. The main stumbling block for opposition parties is the election platform of the Move Forward party.
Bangkok (AsiaNews) – On the day that he could have become prime minister, Pita Limjaroenrat, leader of the pro-reform Move Forward Party (Phak Kao Klai) and prime ministerial candidate for the largest coalition, suffered two more defeats, a week after the first blow.
The first came at the start of today’s joint session of Thailand’s National Assembly,[i] when the Constitutional Court suspended Pita from parliament following a request from the Election Commission in connection with allegations that he failed to disclose shares in a media company.
Other allegations have been made about other lawmakers vis-à-vis the law, and as such those against Pita need not be politically fatal to his quest for the prime minister’s post. However, in the end, the National Assembly voted for a second time against him after a debate that lasted more than eight hours, by a vote of 395 to 312.
This opens the door to talks (and possibly frictions) between the Move Forward Party, the largest party in the coalition that won the elections on 14 May, and its junior partner, the For Thais Party (Phak Phuea Thai).
Another possible scenario would see the winning coalition seeking a deal with right-wing, pro-military opposition parties to pick a new candidate.
Before today’s vote, the opposition challenged it citing Regulation No.49, which bans presenting failed motions to parliament during the same parliamentary session, a view largely rejected during the debate that preceded the vote.
Pro-Pita lawmakers noted that the regulation in question applies to general motions, not to prime ministerial nominations. Nevertheless, for the 42 -year-old Pita, the use of this rule was clearly meant to stop him from becoming prime minister.
As soon as the results of the vote were announced, the pro-reform leader left parliament. He now has 15 days to get his suspension by the Constitutional Court overturned and himself reinstated in the House of Representatives (500 members elected in May). The 250-member Senate is appointed by the military.
Now majority and opposition parties are expected to open talks, which might entail the former dropping some of the policy proposals on which they were elected.
For Thailand’s traditional elites, the major stumbling block is the lèse-majesté law, which provides for up to 15 years in prison and has often been used against political rivals.
[i] House of Representatives and Senate.