Thailand: Deadlock continues, vote to appoint prime minister postponed

Thursday’s vote to appoint a prime minister in the Thai parliament has been postponed indefinitely, the speaker of the National Assembly announced on Tuesday, deepening the political deadlock in the kingdom since mid-May legislative elections.

“We will have to cancel,” Wan Muhammad Nur Matha told reporters. It is impossible to vote before the Constitutional Court rules on Pita Limjaroenrat, he said.

“If we hold the session on July 27 before the court’s verdict, it may create problems,” he said.

Thailand has had no prime minister for more than two months following legislative elections in which Pita Limjaroenrat’s reformist party Move Forward (MFP) was at the head.

His candidacy for the post of prime minister was twice rejected in the parliament due to opposition from senators appointed by the military.

The Constitutional Court must now rule on a complaint by MFP supporters who challenge the validity of the second rejection. The complaint was filed with the mediator, the body responsible for settling disputes with public services.

“The Lokpal has agreed to ask the Constitutional Court to issue a temporary measure to delay the process of voting for the post of Prime Minister, pending a decision by the Court,” said Kirov Kritirananan, Secretary General of the Office of the Ombudsman.

Backed by young, urban voters eager for sweeping changes to Thai society, Move Forward won a surprise victory in the May 14 election, which has been ruled by the military for nearly a decade.

Move Forward leader Ita Limjaroenrat greets her supporters during a rally in Pattaya, Thailand, July 22, 2023 (AFP – Jack Taylor)

But his promises to reform the monarchy and tackle the oligarchy have drawn fierce opposition from conservatives loyal to the king and the military.

In particular, Move Forward’s commitment to reforming the royal defamation law, which shields the king and his family from criticism, alienated him from conservative circles.

Responding to the press, the leader of Move Forward said, “I am aware of the postponement of the Parliament session.” “There’s not much I can do except get back on the pitch. (..) People’s problems are still there.”

– Unknown political territory –

Pita, 42, was suspended from his parliamentary mandate on the day of his second bid to be elected prime minister, for alleged irregularities during the campaign. He is accused of holding shares in the media, which is prohibited by the electoral law.

Supporters of Move Forward leader Pita Limjaroenrat demonstrate in Bangkok, Thailand, July 23, 2023 (AFP - Jack Taylor)
Supporters of Move Forward leader Pita Limjaroenrat demonstrate in Bangkok, Thailand, July 23, 2023 (AFP – Jack Taylor)

To resolve the situation, his party agreed to give way to another candidate within its coalition, who would come from the Phu Thai Party, which had finished second.

Pheu Thai is a powerful force in Thai politics, secretly led by the Shinawatra family and including two former prime ministers ousted by military coups in 2006 and 2014.

The PT has not yet officially chosen its candidate for the post of prime minister. But if he wanted to rule, Phu Thai could be forced to cooperate with or close to the military or with more benign movements. The name of 60-year-old businesswoman Shretha Thavisin, one of PT’s two main figures, has been circulated unanimously.

To become head of government, you must be approved by a majority of both houses of parliament, 500 elected representatives and 250 senators appointed by the former junta.

In the first vote in mid-July, PITA received 324 votes in both houses, but only 13 votes in the Senate.

The rejection of Pita’s candidacy raised fears of mass protests similar to those in 2020 following the dissolution of the Future Forward party, the progenitor of Move Forward.

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