After a surprising turn in parliament, Thailand’s election winner Pita Limjaroenrat has no chance of becoming the next prime minister. Actually, the 42-year-old should have faced a second vote in both chambers after he had not received the necessary votes in the first round last week.
But the vote never took place after several senators lodged complaints against his candidacy and Pita was shortly afterwards suspended as a member of parliament by the constitutional court.
Dozens of angry Pita supporters protested outside the parliament, the entrance to which was guarded by police, after the court decision was announced. The police said they were prepared for any unrest. More and more demonstrators later moved to the Democracy Monument in Bangkok – a symbolic place famous for mass protests for many years.
Angry Thais spoke of “political sabotage”. Because many of the 52 million eligible voters are wondering why they went to the polls in the first place. Thailand likes to present itself as a democracy. But when it comes to shaking up the political establishment, younger hopefuls stand little chance.
“It is clear that in the current system, gaining the trust of the people is not enough to govern this country,” Pita wrote resignedly on Instagram.
His progressive Move Forward Party won the most votes in May’s general election and has 151 seats in the 500-seat House of Representatives. The military, which has been in power since a military coup in 2014, suffered a severe defeat. Pita subsequently managed to form an eight-party coalition, giving him a stable majority in the Chamber of Deputies.
However, he will not become prime minister. The reason is a clause in the constitution that the military passed in its own favor after the coup: since then, 500 elected MPs and 250 senators appointed by the army have voted on the prime minister. These are considered conservative. Very few support progressive forces.
On Wednesday, several senators called for Pita to be denied a second vote entirely, even though his coalition had again nominated him as the top candidate. They argued that a candidate can stand for election in parliament only once, for which political experts say there is no basis.
Sticking point lèse majesty
Nevertheless, they got their request through in a vote. The sticking point was his Move Forward Party’s plan to change the controversial Lèse Majeste law. Thailand punishes lèse majeste more severely than almost any other country. There have been protests from the public for a long time. So far, however, Article 112 has been considered untouchable.
The constitutional court also temporarily suspended Pita as a member of parliament. The background is investigations into alleged shares in a media company that the 42-year-old Harvard graduate is said to have owned during his candidacy. This is forbidden in Thailand.
Pita emphasized that he only managed the shares from his father’s estate. In addition, the company in question has long been closed. He now has two weeks to defend himself against the allegations.
uh/sti (dpa, afp)