Pita Limjaroenrat, head of Thailand’s Move Forward Party, failed in his initial quest to become the country’s next prime minister on Thursday after failing to garner the requisite support of more than half of parliament.
Among the 705 members that voted, 324 voted in support, 182 voted against, and 199 abstained. To be elected, the Move Forward Party (MFP) leader needs 375 votes – a simple majority of the 749 combined House and Senate seats.
Mr Pita won 311 votes in support, 148 votes against, and 39 abstentions from MPs. Senators voted for him 13 times, against him 34 times, and abstained 159 times.
Earlier this month, Parliament President Wan Muhamad Noor Matha announced that the second and third rounds of voting would be held on July 19 and 20. It is unclear whether the Move Forward leader’s name will be proposed again on one or both occasions.
“We accept the result, but we are not retreating,” Mr Pita told reporters shortly after the results were released. “The outcome was not what we had hoped for.” We will strive tirelessly to gain support for the next vote. I’ll strategize again to ensure that we receive the necessary votes the next time.
“We will not change our policies, because we must keep our promise to the people,” he stressed.
The voting took place at a joint session of the House of Representatives and the Senate after six hours of debate on Mr Pita’s qualifications as the sole candidate.
Parliamentarians mostly debated the MFP’s plan to modify Section 112, or the lese-majeste statute, and Mr Pita’s ownership in iTV Plc. The constitution prohibits any shareholder of a media organisation from running in a general election.
At 3.52pm, Mr Wan called the debate to a close. He complimented MPs for cooperating during the session, which allowed the debate to end an hour earlier than expected.
705 of 749 MPs confirmed their attendance for the vote during the session (one senator resigned on Wednesday). There were 216 senators in total.
“I accept it, but I’m not giving up,” Pita Limjaroenrat said after losing a majority vote in parliament for his premiership on Thursday evening.
Following the announcement of the vote results, Mr Pita told reporters that senators were under a lot of pressure because many of them were absent from the joint session of representatives and senators on Thursday.
“There were pressures and several incentives,” he remarked, without going into further detail. “They were not allowed to vote in line with the people.”
He stated that he accepted the poll result but will not give up. He stated that he will seek tactics to garner enough support in the next round of prime ministerial voting.
The second and third rounds of voting have been planned on July 19 and 20 by Parliament President Wan Muhamad Noor Matha. It is unclear whether Mr Pita’s name would be presented on one or both days.
Several legislators criticised the Move Forward Party’s agenda of amending the lese-majeste statute before to the vote on Thursday.
Some observers believe that if the party decides to compromise and abandon ambitions to amend the law from its policy pledges, Mr Pita may be able to earn a majority in the next round of voting.
Following the vote on Thursday, reporters questioned Mr Pita if his party’s position on Section 112 of the Criminal Code will alter.
“It will remain the same,” he said emphatically. “We had a lot of opportunities to explain the situation to the parliament today, which was a good development.”
When asked if he was prepared to join the opposition if things did not go his way, Mr Pita said he was concentrating his efforts for the time being on preparing for the second round of the prime ministerial election.
He said there will be enough time to figure out what transpired on Thursday before the next round.