(CTN News) – In a recent development, Thailand’s Election Commission has announced that the leading candidate for the country’s next prime minister has violated election laws.
Move Forward Party leader, Pita Limjaroenrat, known for his progressive reformist agenda, has been accused of undeclared ownership of media company shares, which lawmakers prohibit.
The commission has referred the case to the Constitutional Court and requested the suspension of Pita as a member of Parliament until a ruling is issued.
The allegation against Pita raises doubts about his ability to secure enough votes to become prime minister. The Move Forward Party secured a surprising first-place finish in the May general election and planned to form a coalition government with 311 seats.
However, Pita’s path to power is challenging as he needs to win the support of 376 votes in a joint session of the House and the conservative Senate, representing Thailand’s traditional ruling establishment.
Move Forward Party has criticized the Election Commission’s decision, questioning its fairness and legality. They argue that the commission rushed the process and violated its procedures by not allowing Pita to provide a statement. The party even alleges commission members may have engaged in criminal misconduct.
In addition to the election law violation, the Constitutional Court has accepted a separate petition against Move Forward Party and Pita regarding their campaign promise to amend Thailand’s strict lese majeste law.
The law, known as Article 112, imposes severe penalties for defaming the monarchy. Move Forward Party aims to reform the law to prevent its alleged misuse for political purposes, which they argue harms the monarchy’s reputation. However, royalists staunchly oppose any amendments to the law, and the Senate shares their viewpoint.
Suppose the court determines that Pita’s actions constitute an attempt to overthrow the constitutional monarchy, separate from Article 112. In that case, they may order the cessation of all activities related to the proposed amendment.
Violating this order could result in prosecution. It is worth noting that the dissolution of the Future Forward party in 2019, a predecessor to Move Forward, triggered significant protests by pro-democracy activists.
Concerns of Political Manipulation by Thailand’s Conservative Ruling Establishment
Pita and the Move Forward Party’s current legal challenges highlight concerns about potential political manipulation by Thailand’s conservative ruling establishment.
Critics argue that state agencies, including the Election Commission and courts, have been used to weaken or eliminate political opponents in the past.
Caretaker Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam has even suggested that a ruling against Pita could nullify the May election results, potentially leading to a new election.
As the case proceeds in the Constitutional Court, the political landscape in Thailand remains uncertain, with ongoing debates over electoral fairness, monarchy reform, and the balance of power between different factions.