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Thailand’s Constitutional Court Blocks Future Forward Leaders Bid for Prime Minister Role

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BANGKOK – Thailand’s constitutional court on Thursday suspended the MP status of a politician popular with millennial voters after he was accused of breaking an electoral law, a day before parliament was set to reopen.

Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, leader of the Future Forward Party and a former business tycoon, is accused of holding shares in a media company when he registered in February to run in the country’s March 24 election.

Thanathorn has rejected the accusation, saying he had transferred the stakes in V-Luck Media to his mother in January.

The court on Thursday said Thanathorn had to be suspended “from performing the duties of a parliamentarian” until it determined whether he had violated election rules.

Thanathorn called a press conference at the party’s headquarters a few hours after the court order was issued.

“Even though my MP duties are suspended, my MP status is not. And while I am barred from entering politics, I will work with the people, 6.3 million people who voted for the party,” he said. “My bid for the prime minister’s seat stands to stop the junta, to stop the dictatorship.”

Thai politicians are barred from holding stakes in a media company to prevent conflict of interest.

The order comes on the eve of the opening ceremony of Thailand’s parliament, which will be presided over by King Maha Vajiralongkorn on Friday.

Parliament is expected to vote for Thailand’s new prime minister in the coming week.

It has vowed to end the rule of the junta and amend the 2017 Constitution.

Last week, Thanathorn rallied for a coalition to secure enough votes to topple junta chief Prayuth Chan-ocha.

The 40-year-old billionaire entrepreneur has accused the military government of trying to bar him from entering the parliament.

It remains to be seen how the Future Forward will carry on a rally to secure a house majority with Thanathorn missing at the helm.

A prime minister will need at least 376 votes in the 500-seat parliament and 250-seat Senate. The Future Forward has launched a bid to secure enough votes in the lower house in the hope that a strong MP coalition can sway the junta-picked Senate in their favour.

Future Forward, a millennial-friendly party, came in third in the March election, gaining 80 seats in parliament.

It has vowed to end the rule of the junta and amend the 2017 Constitution.

Last week, Thanathorn rallied for a coalition to secure enough votes to topple junta chief Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha.

The 40-year-old billionaire entrepreneur has accused the military government of trying to bar him from entering the parliament.

It remains to be seen how the Future Forward will carry on a rally to secure a house majority with Thanathorn missing at the helm.

A prime minister will need at least 376 votes in the 500-seat parliament and 250-seat Senate. The Future Forward has launched a bid to secure enough votes in the lower house in the hope that a strong MP coalition can sway the junta-picked Senate in their favour.

By Jitsiree Thongnoi
South China Morning Post