Thailand’s opposition leader Pita Limjaroenrat should not become prime minister, parliament decided on Wednesday after chief justices suspended him as a member of parliament. There was little chance he would be elected anyway, as the army he criticized has a strong voice in this regard.
The chief justices concluded that Pita could still be a candidate for the post of Prime Minister despite his suspension as an MP. But the parliament still put an end to it. A majority has decided that the reformist opposition leader should not run for prime minister while he is suspended.
Pita was suspended for allegedly owning shares in a television broadcaster that had been inactive since 2007. MPs are not allowed by law to have shares in the media. Pita inherited his father’s shares.
Pita, 42, said in an interview with Tuesday Reuters that he expected “pre-planned” obstacles after his election victory in May. The reformist opposition leader was then the big winner with his progressive party Avancer (MFP).
Despite his victory, it immediately became apparent that Pita would struggle to become prime minister, as in addition to the 500 elected parliamentarians, 250 senators can also vote for him. These senators are all appointed by the powerful army.
Almost no one voted for Pita in the senate. He won a majority in the lower house, but was still 51 votes short of becoming prime minister. A new prime minister is only installed with a majority.
Pita’s party wants to reduce the power of the army
During the election campaign, the MFP promised, among other things, to end the influence of the army on politics. The military has had a lot of power in Thailand since a coup in 2014.
Moreover, the country has been politically polarized for decades by two opposing visions. One side is nationalistic and sees the king as an almost absolute monarch. The other camp, to which Pita belongs, wants a democratic and more equal state.
The army is pro-royal and supports conservative nationalists.
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