Thailand: Pita’s party suggests a way out of the crisis

Thailand’s reform party, which won the last election, announced on Friday that it would stand behind another formation candidate within the pro-democracy bloc next week following the rejection by parliament of its own leader for the post of prime minister.

Appointed by the military, the senators twice rejected the candidacy of Pita Limjaroenrat, leader of the Move Forward (MFP), which has the largest number of delegates but whose program was deemed too radical and hostile to the all-powerful monarchy.

The party will therefore support the Phu Thai (PT) candidate, who finished second and is already associated with Move Forward within the eight-party coalition. The party announced that its candidate would be nominated on Wednesday, a day before the vote in parliament.

The MFP came out on top in the May 14 election, thanks to overwhelming support from youth eager for sweeping changes in the state, which has been ruled by the military for nearly a decade.

Now, “the most important thing is not that Pita becomes prime minister, but that Thailand can become a democratic country,” MFP secretary-general Chaitawat Tulathon told reporters on Friday.

Phu Thai is a heavyweight in Thai politics, secretly led by the Shinawatra family, whose members include two former prime ministers ousted by military coups in 2006 and 2014.

“In the next vote (Thursday) for prime minister, the MFP will vote for the PT candidate, just like the PT voted for the MFP candidate,” Chaitavat said.

The kingdom’s conservative elite strongly opposes Move Forward’s reformist program, which notably seeks to soften the strict lèse-majesté law, which shields the king and his family from any criticism.

On Wednesday, Pita was suspended by the Constitutional Court from his term as deputy, seized on suspicion of irregularities during his campaign. He had to leave Hemicycle in the middle of a meeting to decide on his second candidacy after the first rejection last week.

In the end, the vote did not take place, his candidacy being deemed contrary to the rules of the Assembly.

One of the PT’s two main figures, Shretha Thavisin (60), a businesswoman with a consensus profile, appears better positioned to become the pro-democracy bloc’s candidate for prime minister.

Le Phu Thai said Friday she would consult with other coalition parties on how to garner more support from senators, including on the thorny issue of lèse-majesté.

Ultimately, Move Forward’s presence among Schretha’s supporters may once again lead to the senators’ refusal and thus lead them to ally with movements that are more amicable with the military.

The outgoing prime minister, General Prayut Chan-o-cha, who is in office, called for calm on Thursday following the final rejection of Pita’s candidacy, which raised fears of mass demonstrations similar to those in 2020 following the dissolution of Move Forward’s progenitor, the Future Forward party.

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