Last chance for Thailand's Pita to become PM as parliament votes | Inquirer News

Last chance for Thailand’s Pita to become PM as parliament votes

/ 10:49 AM July 19, 2023

Pita Limjaroenrat

Move Forward Party Leader Pita Limjaroenrat poses for a photograph after an interview with Reuters in Bangkok, Thailand July 18, 2023. REUTERS

BANGKOK — The leader of Thailand’s election-winning Move Forward Party was braced for what could be his final shot at becoming prime minister on Wednesday, as a parliament that denied him last week convenes for its second vote on the premiership.

Thailand has been run by a caretaker administration since March and 65 days have passed since Move Forward’s stunning election triumph over parties backed by the royalist military after nine years of government controlled by generals.


The 42-year-old, U.S.-educated liberal Pita Limjaroenrat needs the backing of more than half of the bicameral parliament to be endorsed as Thailand’s next prime minister, but must overcome fierce resistance from a military at odds with his party’s anti-establishment ambitions.


Parliamentary rules written by the military after a 2014 coup and skewed in its favor ensured Pita’s defeat in the first round, when he was stopped by a Senate appointed by generals allied with conservatives and old money families that have long wielded influence over Thailand’s democracy.

Pita has a mountain to climb and knows that if he fails this time, he must honor his pledge to make way for coalition partner and political heavyweight Pheu Thai to field its prime ministerial candidate in the next round.

“I didn’t fail. I won the election and formed a coalition and was blocked by the Senate. Let us be clear on that,” Pita told Reuters in an interview on Tuesday.

He was 51 votes short and was backed by only 13 of the 249 senators, many of whom abstained or were no-shows, effectively votes against him.

Powerful interests

Move Forward believes many were pressured to deny him and Pita is hoping some could change their minds.

“We’re still in deficit, but we have made gains,” he said.


“I reached out to the 13 brave ones – there was a group who didn’t show up. They pledged to vote for Pita … that’s a sizable bloc.”

The progressive Move Forward ran a disruptive campaign dominated by social media, targeting urban and young voters, with promises of bold institutional reforms to upend the conservative status quo.

But its agenda has put it on a collision course with powerful interests and Pita faces other obstacles on Wednesday that have raised doubts about whether the parliamentary vote will even take place.

Several senators have announced they will try to prevent him from contesting, arguing no candidate should be nominated twice.

While parliament convenes, the Constitutional Court will consider a complaint against Pita seeking his disqualification over a shareholding issue deemed in violation of election rules, which could result in his suspension as a lawmaker.

“That’s fine,” he said. “It’s something that was pre-planned.

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TAGS: Elections, Politics, Thailand

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