THAILAND: On Wednesday, Thailand’s Constitutional Court issued an order temporarily suspending Pita Limjaroenrat, a prime ministerial candidate, from his position as a lawmaker, announcing parliament gathered for what could potentially be his last opportunity to become the country’s premier.
The court’s ruling followed the acceptance of a complaint alleging that Pita, the head of the Move Forward Party, which won the election, was ineligible to run in a May 14 election because he owned shares in a media company, in contravention of electoral laws.
Pita, a 42-year-old liberal who received his education in the United States, faced defeat in his first attempt to become Prime Minister in a parliamentary vote last week. Now, to secure the premiership, he requires the support of over half of the bicameral parliament.
He faces intense opposition from opponents who disagree with his party’s anti-establishment goals, including a royalist military that chose senators who rejected Pita’s initial bid and other opponents.
The court’s announcement created uncertainty regarding whether Wednesday’s vote would proceed, as lawmakers were still in the midst of discussions about Pita’s nomination.
The military-drafted parliamentary rules after a 2014 coup, heavily favoring them, have made it exceptionally challenging for Pita to establish a government despite the support of an eight-party alliance.
As the lawmakers debated whether Pita could participate in a second vote for the premiership, the court’s decision marked its second active case involving Pita, with political opponents claiming he had already been denied the opportunity.
Pita has asserted that he did not violate any rules by holding shares in media company iTV, as the company had not been involved in mass media operations for several years. The court has given him a 15-day window to respond to the suspension, as stated in their official statement.
Move Forward, on the other hand, stated that the court ruling does not affect the ongoing proceedings.
“According to the law, Pita remains a candidate for prime minister,” it stated, asking viewers to watch the debate on television.
Pita still has a long way to go before he can become premier, and he had anticipated facing obstacles from both his political adversaries and the court, as evident in the twin challenges posed on Wednesday.
During an interview on Tuesday, he stated that the recent actions were all “pre-planned,” and he expressed doubts about the timing. He likened the efforts of the royalist military to obstruct him to a repetitive “broken record.”
Since March, Thailand has been under the governance of a caretaker administration, and it has been 65 days since Move Forward achieved a remarkable election victory, ending nine years of military-backed government dominance.