In a significant blow to Thailand‘s progressive opposition party, Pita Limjaroenrat, the winner of the nationwide elections in May, had his prime ministerial nomination rejected by the thai parliament. This decision comes after nearly a decade of military-backed rule in the country.
Votes and Suspension: A Challenging Situation
Out of the 715 thai parliament members present, 395 voted against Pita Limjaroenrat’s second nomination, while 312 voted in favor, eight abstained, and Pita himself didn’t cast a vote. The country’s constitutional court temporarily suspended him as a lawmaker based on a complaint filed by the Election Commission. The accusation was related to his alleged violation of election laws by holding shares in a media company. Pita has strongly denied any wrongdoing and criticized the Election Commission for rushing the case to court.
Move Forward Party’s Ambitious Platform
The Move Forward Party, led by Pita Limjaroenrat, had promised extensive structural reforms for Thailand, addressing key areas such as the military, the economy, the decentralization of power, and even proposing reforms to the monarchy, a topic traditionally considered untouchable.
Record Turnout and Power Shift
The May election saw an unprecedented voter turnout and dealt a strong blow to the military-backed establishment, which has held power since 2014 when Prayut Chan-o-cha seized control in a coup.
Potential for Mass Protests
With the parliament and court’s decisions, there is a high likelihood that Move Forward’s young support base will be further motivated, potentially leading to mass street protests.
Coalition Formation and Pita’s Bid for Prime Minister
After winning the largest share of seats, a coalition of opposition parties formed with the aim of securing a majority government and nominating Pita Limjaroenrat as their candidate for prime minister. Pita, a Harvard alumnus aged 42, referred to the coalition as the “voice of hope and change.”
The political system, designed by the previous junta, significantly favors the royalist, conservative establishment, which has dominated Thailand’s power dynamics. To elect a prime minister and form a government, a party or coalition needs a majority in both the lower and upper houses of the 749-seat parliament. However, the conservative establishment enjoys a head start, as the unelected 250-member Senate was appointed by the military under the post-coup constitution and has typically supported pro-military candidates.
Pita’s Address to Thai Parliament
Despite the coalition’s efforts, Pita Limjaroenrat failed to secure the required number of parliamentary votes to become prime minister. During the ongoing investigation into his case, he addressed parliament to bid farewell.
Conservative Establishment’s History of Resistance
The powerful conservative establishment, a confluence of the military, monarchy, and influential elites, has a long history of blocking fundamental changes to the status quo. The Constitutional Court, over the past two decades, has repeatedly favored the establishment, dissolving parties that challenged the political elite. Moreover, the military has a track record of toppling democratically elected governments during moments of instability, with Thailand witnessing multiple successful coups since 1932.
Uncertain Path Ahead
With Pita Limjaroenrat’s nomination blocked and the ongoing investigations, the future remains uncertain for Thailand’s political landscape. The progressive opposition will likely continue pushing for change, while the conservative establishment seeks to maintain its grip on power. As the nation grapples with these challenges, only time will tell what lies ahead for Thailand’s governance and democracy.