Thai court rejects challenge on Parliament’s decision to block Pita’s PM bid

Nontarat Phaicharoen and Wilawan Watcharsakwej
Thai court rejects challenge on Parliament’s decision to block Pita’s PM bid Move Forward Party leader Pita Limjaroenrat (center) leaves after voting for house speaker, at the parliament in Bangkok, Thailand, July 4, 2023.

Updated at 3:15 p.m. ET on 2023-08-16

Thailand’s Constitutional Court on Wednesday dismissed a petition from allies of the Move Forward Party challenging Parliament’s decision to block a second vote for its leader Pita Limjaroenrat to serve as prime minister.

The ruling is likely the final blow for Pita’s bid to become Thailand’s 30th first prime minister after nine years of rule by an administration with deep military ties dating back to a coup in 2014. 

In its ruling the court said it was dismissing the case because the petitioners were not the “directly violated persons.”

“The Constitutional Court has unanimously decided not to accept the petition, therefore, all requests are dismissed,” it said in a statement.

The plaintiffs – two professors, Move Forward lawmaker Panyarat Nantapusitanon and 27 voters – claimed that Parliament’s move to block a second vote for Pita was a “violation of their rights and freedom.”

On Wednesday afternoon, Speaker Wan Muhamad Noor Matha said both houses would vote for a prime minister candidate next week.

“The parliament legal counselors have discussed with the house speaker and agreed to select Aug. 22 at 9:30 a.m. as the vote date,” said a parliament statement seen by BenarNews said.

“The tripartite whip from the lower house, the Senate and coalition will meet tomorrow to ensure everyone availability,” the statement said.

Pita had been expected to contest a second and final vote for the prime ministerial post on July 19 after he failed in his initial attempt to win the backing of Thailand’s 749-seat bicameral Parliament. But conservative Senate members blocked his nomination over concerns that he pledged to do away Lèse-Majesté, a strict law against royal defamation.. 

Following Wednesday’s decision, Move Forward MP Rangsiman Rome said the party would not challenge it, but would take the matter up in the House of Representatives.

“We will submit the motion [to discuss the validity of Pita’s renomination] and have the Parliament do the right thing,” he told reporters. “We do not mean to be politically disruptive … But this is the way to make Parliament do it right.”

Wan Noor had postponed the vote for prime minister indefinitely, pending the resolution of Pita’s Constitutional Court case. The delay added uncertainty to a political deadlock that has stretched on for months in the Southeast Asian nation. 

Despite leading his party to a surprise election win in May, Pita has faced relentless opposition from Thailand’s pro-royalist elite for his party’s progressive campaign pledges, including reform of the royal defamation law.

Thannapat Jarernpanit, a professor at Pibulsongkram Rajabhat University, said the court decision had “clearly shut the door for Pita to become the 30th prime minister of Thailand.”  

After the 42-year-old was unable to form a government, Pita agreed to step aside so Pheu Thai, one of his allies, could nominate one of its leaders for PM. 

Pheu Thai has since established a new coalition that includes members of the outgoing military-backed government and excludes Move Forward. It plans to nominate Srettha Thavisin, a former property tycoon, as its prime ministerial candidate.

On Tuesday, Move Forward Secretary-General Chaithawat Tulathon said the party had resolved not to vote for its former coalition partner’s candidate for PM because it would be going against the will of voters.

The Pheu Thai alliance appears to have a total of 228 seats in the 500-member lower house. It needs at least 375 votes from the combined house and Senate to elect a new prime minister. 

To win over senators, the party has pledged not to touch the Lèse-Majesté.

This story has been updated to include the parliament statement about the Aug. 22 vote for prime minister.


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