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Thailand to hold vote on PM next week as Pita“s hopes fade

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Thailand’s parliament will hold another vote for a prime minister next week which cannot include the leader of election winners Move Forward, a deputy speaker said on Thursday, after rivals derailed his bid by blocking his re-nomination.

Parliament’s move to deny Pita Limjaroenrat after a marathon debate on his eligibility on Wednesday sparked protests, as a post-election crisis deepens two months after his party’s surprise election triumph over military-backed rivals.

“A candidate can only be nominated once in each parliamentary session,” Deputy House Speaker Pichet Chuamuangphan told Reuters on Thursday.

Pita, 42, had faced resistance from conservative, royalist rivals determined to stop Move Forward from forming a government and pursuing its anti-establishment policy agenda.

He was dealt a double blow on Wednesday when parliament denied him a second attempt at the premiership and the Constitutional Court suspended him as lawmaker after accepting a case alleging he held shares in a media company in violation of election laws. He insists no rules were broken.

Those moves were the latest twist in Thailand’s long running battle between pro-democracy forces that win elections and a powerful nexus of influential conservatives, royalists and generals determined to stop them.

Pita was ultimately thwarted in the bicameral parliament by a 250-member Senate that was appointed by the military.

“Why should we bother to vote when the Senate is there to obstruct everything? Are 14 million votes meaningless compared to just 250 people?” Wilansini Sakaew, 21, said at a protest late on Wednesday.

Thailand’s baht appreciated by as much as 1.7% against the dollar on Thursday – an over two-month high – as investor sentiment improved on expectation that the deadlock on the premiership might soon end.

Activists are planning more gatherings, urging demonstrators to wear black to protest a constitution created by the military after its 2014 coup that makes it extremely difficult for parties that win elections to form governments.

It is widely expected that real estate tycoon and political newcomer Srettha Thavisin from Move Forward’s alliance partner Pheu Thai will be nominated for premier for the July 27 vote.

“The eight parties are together, if there is a resolution for Pheu Thai to lead, then the party has to choose who to nominate,” Srettha told reporters.

But it is unclear whether Srettha can succeed where Pita failed, especially if Pheu Thai sticks with Move Forward, which is seen by many lawmakers as a pariah because of its plan to amend parts of a royal insults law that shields the powerful monarchy from criticism.

Among those is Senator Jetn Sirathranont, who told Reuters he would not support any candidate from a coalition that includes Move Forward.

Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a political science professor at Chulalongkorn University said Move Forward had been a victim of what looked like “a setup from the outset”.

“Move Forward were denied the speakership, now they are denied the premiership and the next step they will out manoeuvred and forced into the opposition,” Thitinan said.

Related Galleries:

People walk outside the parliament, after Thailand’s constitution court ordered the temporary suspension of the Move Forward Party’s leader Pita Limjaroenrat from the parliament, in Bangkok, Thailand, July 19, 2023. REUTERS/Chalinee Thirasupa

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
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