Thai court to deliberate on petition against blocking Pita’s second PM vote

Kunnawut Boonreak
Chiang Mai, Thailand
Thai court to deliberate on petition against blocking Pita’s second PM vote Supporters hold a portrait of Pita Limjaroenrat, the Thai Move Forward Party leader, during a protest in Bangkok, July 27, 2023.
Sakchai Lalit/AP

Thailand’s Constitutional Court will meet next week to deliberate the merits of a petition challenging Parliament’s decision to block a second vote for Move Forward Party leader Pita Limjaroenrat to serve as prime minister, it announced Thursday.

Pita fell short of the 375 parliamentary votes needed to secure the top government post when 749 house members and senators voted on July 13 in a first round of voting to determine who would serve as the next PM. Six days later, members of the upper house Senate blocked a second vote for Pita to serve as prime minister.

House Speaker Wan Muhamad Noor Matha indicated on Thursday that Parliament could convene for another prime ministerial vote on Aug. 4, depending on the court’s action. 

“The parliamentary session initially scheduled for today has been postponed, awaiting the Constitutional Court’s judgment. The court has recently received a petition from the ombudsman and will conduct a preliminary review on Aug. 3rd,” Wan Noor told reporters on Thursday.

“This review will determine whether to accept the ombudsman’s petition and, if accepted, how it will be considered. This decision may further impact the timeline of the subsequent prime ministerial election process.” 

On Tuesday, Wan Noor indefinitely postponed the prime ministerial vote until after the court ruled on the petition.

Pita’s party was the biggest winner in the May 14 general election, where parties with ties to the military were obliterated. Move Forward belongs to an eight-party alliance that is trying to form Thailand’s first pro-democracy government since a military coup in 2014. 

After he was blocked last week in his second try at being voted in as prime minister, Pita agreed to step aside so Pheu Thai, one of his allies, could nominate one of its leaders for prime minister. 

A political analyst said the court’s upcoming decision would affect efforts to seat a government leader.

“The court’s decision will be instrumental in guiding the trajectory Thai leaders envision for the political scenario. There’s a likelihood the court may opt to sidestep this issue,” Isa Gharti, a political analyst from Chiang Mai University, told BenarNews.

Previously, the court ordered that Pita be suspended as an MP. It had reviewed a case from the Election Commission recommending he be disqualified as a lawmaker over a complaint that he had applied to run for office while owning shares of a now-defunct media company – a violation of election laws.

The court also said it had received a separate complaint filed by lawyer Teerayuth Suwanakesorn against Pita and Move Forward’s plan to reform Article 112, the Lèse-Majesté law that strictly guards against royal defamation.  

In May, Pita’s Move Forward Party won 151 seats in the general election, while Pheu Thai Party won 141, with the eight allies in the opposition coalition holding 312 seats. 

After PMs refused him a second vote, Pita called on the Pheu Thai Party to canvass support from other parties and from senators to reach the 375-vote plateau needed to secure a majority in order to lead Thailand’s next government. 

Prayuth Chan-o-cha, the former junta chief who has served as prime minister since 2014 but announced he would be retiring politics after his Thai United Nation Party performed poorly in the May vote, is serving as the caretaker prime minister until his successor is elected.

Meanwhile, news surfaced on Wednesday that Thaksin Shinawatra, the billionaire businessman and populist former prime minister who was forced from office by a military coup in 2006, would return to Thailand on Aug. 10.

He fled Thailand in 2008 after being sentenced to 12 years in jail on four different charges, including for corruption and tax evasion. 

Thaksin remains popular in Thailand and is still thought to hold considerable influence over domestic politics, particularly among rural voters in the north and the northeast – the stronghold of the Pheu Thai Party.


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