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Election Winner's PM Bid Derailed As Turmoil Grips Thailand

Election winner's PM bid derailed as turmoil grips Thailand as the leader of Thailand's victorious Move Forward Party faces fresh challenges on Wednesday. Pita Limjaroenrat, a U.S.-educated liberal, encountered significant obstacles, including being suspended as a lawmaker by the Constitutional Court and having his re-nomination scuttled in parliament by rivals.

Cecilia Jones
Jul 20, 20231193 Shares85242 Views
Election winner's PM bid derailed as turmoil grips Thailandas the leader of Thailand's victorious Move Forward Party faces fresh challenges on Wednesday. Pita Limjaroenrat, a U.S.-educated liberal, encountered significant obstacles, including being suspended as a lawmaker by the Constitutional Court and having his re-nomination scuttled in parliament by rivals.
Pita's path to becoming the country's leader became exceedingly difficult due to fierce opposition from a royalist military that disagrees with his party's anti-establishment agenda.
During the parliamentary session, there were 715 members present. Among them, 395 voted to block the second nomination, while 312 voted in favor of it. Additionally, eight members abstained from voting, and notably, Pita, the nominee in question, did not cast his vote, as confirmed by the house speaker.
During a lengthy seven-hour debate over Pita's candidacy, lawmakers nullified his nomination, citing a previous rejection of his endorsement as premier in a vote held the previous week. Additionally, the Constitutional Court levied a second case against him within six days, suspending him as a lawmaker based on an allegation of violating election rules by holding shares in a media firm.
Despite these setbacks, Pita is not barred from running for the position of premier. However, it remains uncertain if his eight-party alliance will attempt to re-nominate him through a different motion.
In an interview with Reuters on Tuesday, the 42-year-old leader had anticipated these obstacles, describing the establishment's efforts to hinder him as a repetitive and pre-planned tactic.
Thailand has been under a caretaker administration since March, with 65 days having passed since the Move Forward Party's remarkable victory over military-backed parties in the May election-an outcome widely seen as a resounding rejection of the nine-year government control by the generals.
"Thailand is not the same since May 14. We have come halfway from the people's victory and there is another half to go," a smiling Pita told the house as he acknowledged the court's suspension order, receiving fist-bumps and applause.

Establishment's Headstart

Last week, Pita's attempt to secure enough parliamentary votes to become prime minister in Thailand faced a setback. The country's political system, established by the previous junta, heavily favors the royalist, conservative establishment that has wielded power for an extended period.
In Thailand, a party or coalition must win a majority of 375 seats in both the lower and upper houses of the 749-seat parliament to elect a prime minister and form a government. However, the unelected 250-member Senate, appointed by the military under a post-coup constitution, already provides an advantage to the conservative establishment and has previously supported pro-military candidates.
Unfortunately, Pita fell short with only 324 votes out of the required 376 majority. As a result, Thailand still lacks a prime minister, and the political maneuvering continues.
In response to the situation, Pita addressed parliament on Wednesday and bid "farewell" while the investigation into the matter is ongoing. The future political landscape remains uncertain as the country grapples with the complexities of power and governance.
Due to the Constitutional Court has ordered me to temporarily suspend my duty, I would like to use this opportunity to bid my farewell to Mr. Speaker, until we meet again. I would ask my fellow members to continue using the parliamentary system to take care of the people. I think Thailand has already changed and won’t turn back since May 14. The people have already come halfway, for another half even though I can’t perform my duty, I would ask my fellow members to continue taking care of the people.- Leader of the Move Forward Party Pita Limjaroenrat
Move Forward Party Leader Pita Limjaroenrat with his jaw resting on one hand as he attends the voting session
Move Forward Party Leader Pita Limjaroenrat with his jaw resting on one hand as he attends the voting session

Power Struggle

The latest dramatic events on Wednesday marked the continuation of a two-decade-long power struggle between elected parties and Thailand's conservative military establishment. This ongoing conflict has been characterized by political bans, court interventions, two coups, and occasionally large, violent street protests.
In the latest turn of events, Pita, a progressive candidate, faced a significant obstacle in his bid for power in Thailand. The country's military-drafted constitution, which heavily favored the conservative establishment, led to Pita being blocked in the initial vote by the junta-appointed Senate. This Senate has consistently acted as a barrier against elected officials, making it difficult to form governments.
In response to this attempt to halt Pita's candidacy, hundreds of his supporters gathered peacefully in Bangkok to protest, expressing their frustration and disappointment. They criticized the lack of respect for the people's will and accused the Senate of ignoring the voices of millions who supported Pita.
The progressive Move Forward party had conducted an innovative election campaign, skillfully utilizing social media to appeal to urban and young voters. Their promise of bold institutional reforms challenged the entrenched conservative status quo, resulting in clashes with powerful interests aligned with the military-backed government. Legal cases were brought against Pita in an effort to hinder his political ambitions.
Following the vote that nullified Pita's nomination, senior officials from the Move Forward party and their alliance partner, Pheu Thai, discussed their next course of action in a planned meeting.
As Pita's chances of becoming prime minister dwindled, he had previously stated that he would step aside if unsuccessful, allowing Pheu Thai, a political heavyweight, to field its candidate in a potential third round of voting. The situation remained tense as the power struggle between elected parties and the conservative military establishment continued to shape Thailand's political landscape.
"It is now clear that in the current system, winning public approval is not enough to run the country," Pita posted on Instagram during the debate.
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