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Thailand’s Parliament to Vote on Aug 22 For New Prime Minister

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Thailand's Parliament to Vote on Aug 22 For New Prime Minister

Thailand’s Constitutional Court opened the way for Parliament to vote for a new prime minister on Wednesday, more than three months after national elections, by failing to rule on a case about the winning party’s leader’s rejection.

The court was requested to rule on whether Parliament breached the constitution by refusing to allow the leader of the progressive Move Forward Party to be nominated for prime minister a second time.

Pita Limjaroenrat, the party’s leader, has put together an eight-party coalition with a majority in Parliament’s lower house. However, under the military-implemented constitution, a new prime minister must secure a majority of votes from both the elected House and the conservative Senate appointed by an earlier military government.

Pita lost his first vote for prime minister in Parliament last month, with many senators voting against him because of his party’s desire for change of a legislation that makes defaming Thailand’s royal family illegal. Critics claim that the law, which has a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison, has been utilised as a political tool. Senate members, like the army, view themselves as defenders of historic conservative royalist principles.

Thailand Pita

Thailand’s Parliament declined to allow Pita to run for PM

Several lawmakers from Pita’s party, as well as private residents, filed a complaint with the state ombudsman, alleging that the action was unconstitutional. The ombudsman forwarded the complaint to the Constitutional Court, which dismissed the case on Wednesday on the grounds that the complainants were not personally impacted by Parliament’s decision and thus did not have standing to bring the matter before the court.

While the court’s judgement implied that Pita might ask for a verdict on the case, Move Forward spokesperson Rangsiman Rome stated that Pita would not do so. He stated that Move Forward believes Parliament can renominate a prime ministerial candidate, but that the question should be handled by parliamentary procedures rather than the courts.

After two failed efforts, Move Forward moved aside to allow its largest coalition partner, the Pheu Thai party, to create a new government.

Pheu Thai, which came in second in the May elections, then kicked Move Forward out of the coalition, claiming that its call to alter the royal defamation law made it impossible to gain enough support from other parties and the Senate to appoint a new prime minister.

Pheu Thai has now cobbled together a coalition of nine parties, garnering 238 seats in the 500-member lower chamber, but falling short of the required majority. It intends to name real estate magnate Srettha Thavisin as Prime Minister.

Thailand Pheu Thai

Pheu Thai-led government

Move Forward announced on Tuesday that its elected House members will not vote for a candidate from the Pheu Thai-led alliance. It claimed that the alliance, which included parties from the departing military-backed regime, had breached popular demand for democratic reform “clearly expressed through election results.”

The results of May’s general election were a strong rejection of the country’s conservative elites and reflected the disenchantment, particularly among young voters, with the military, which has staged more than a dozen coups since Thailand became a constitutional monarchy in 1932.

The surprise success of Move Forward occurred after almost a decade of military rule led by Prayuth Chan-ocha, who as army leader deposed a Pheu Thai-led government in a 2014 coup and returned as prime minister following the 2019 elections.

Many feel that in order to win a House majority, the current Pheu Thai-led coalition must include at least one of the two military-backed parties that were soundly defeated in the polls. Pheu Thai has not ruled out the possibility.

Pheu Thai is the newest in a long line of groups linked to ex-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, a millionaire populist deposed in a military coup in 2006. Thaksin has stated that he intends to return to Thailand shortly after years of self-imposed exile in order to avoid prison time in various criminal prosecutions that he has characterised as politically motivated.

Following the court’s judgement, House Speaker Wan Muhamad Noor Matha informed reporters on Wednesday that the next voting for prime minister will take place on Tuesday and that he will meet with legislative leaders on Thursday to discuss the subject.

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