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Thai protesters show support for Pita after PM bid blocked

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Move Forward Party Leader Pita Limjaroenrat attends a voting session on the day of the second vote for a new prime minister, at the parliament in Bangkok, Thailand, July 19, 2023.REUTERS/Chalinee Thirasupa/File Photo

Hundreds of pro-deomcracy protesters in Thailand gathered on Sunday in a show of support for Pita Limjaroenrat, the leader of the Move Forward party, after conservative opponents thwarted his latest attempt to become prime minister.

Move Forward won the May election after receiving strong youth support on a platform of anti-establishment policies, including reforming the military, ending business monopolies and amending the royal insult law, which protects the powerful monarchy from criticism.

Parliament has twice blocked the Harvard-educated Pita, 42, from becoming prime minister – once last Wednesday and previously the week before – which his supporters say was due to unfair rules.

“We will keep fighting … no matter how many months we have to support democratic principles,” an activist said on stage drawing cheers from the crowd at a busy intersection in central Bangkok.

“Pita! Pita! Pita!” the crowd chanted.

Move Forward’s policies put it on collision course with Thailand’s nexus of royalist military, old money elites and conservative forces.

Move Forward’s eight-party coalition includes the populist Pheu Thai party and controls a majority in the 500-member lower house.

Under the military-drafted constitution, the next prime minister must secure more than half the votes in the bicameral legislature, which includes 249 members the junta appointed after it seized power in 2014. They have sided with conservative parties.

Another vote on the premiership is scheduled for Thursday when Move Forward coalition ally Pheu Thai will propose a candidate who is largely expected to be political newcomer real estate tycoon Srettha Thavisin.

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