‘No surrender’ – Thailand’s Pita vows to fight on after blow to PM bid

‘No surrender’ – Thailand’s Pita vows to fight on after blow to PM bid

Thailand’s Pita Limjaroenrat, the leader of the progressive Move Forward Party, has vowed to continue his pursuit of becoming prime minister despite suffering defeat in a parliamentary vote. The vote was marked by abstentions and no-shows as conservative forces united to prevent Pita from taking office. Although unopposed in the showdown, Pita fell 51 votes short of securing the top job due to the influence of a Senate appointed by the royalist military. Another vote is expected next week, and Pita can contest again if nominated by his eight-party alliance. He needs the support of more than half of parliament’s 749 members to win. Pita expressed his determination to keep fighting, stating that he will not surrender and will use this time to gather more support.

The parliamentary vote was a crucial test of Pita’s political influence and a measure of opposition to his party’s anti-establishment agenda. Move Forward Party aims to remove the military from politics, dismantle business monopolies, and amend a law that imposes severe penalties for insulting the monarchy. In the May 14 election, Move Forward and its alliance partner, Pheu Thai, emerged as winners, defeating conservative pro-military parties and signaling a rejection of nearly a decade of military-led or backed government.

Pita faced setbacks in the days leading up to the vote, with two legal complaints filed against him. One of the complaints recommended his disqualification, leading to protests and concerns about efforts to prevent Move Forward from gaining power. These developments added to the challenges faced by Pita, who has been educated in the United States.

Thailand’s political landscape has been marked by coups, court interventions, party dissolutions, and occasional violent protests over the past two decades. The cases against Pita and the uncertainty surrounding the political situation have had a negative impact on Thailand’s stock market, with the main stock index declining by 11% this year. Foreign investors have been net sellers of Thai shares for five consecutive months, offloading over $3 billion worth of shares.

Pita’s determination to pursue Move Forward’s controversial agenda has put him at odds with influential conservative forces and old-money families who have significant influence over democratic institutions in Thailand. These forces have played a prominent role in Thai politics for many years. Lawmaker Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana, representing the army-backed United Thai Nation Party, stated that Move Forward’s plan to change article 112 of the criminal code, which prohibits insults to the monarchy, would be their downfall. He emphasized that they would not support Move Forward or any coalition that includes them.

Move Forward’s rise to power surprised established political figures who had significant financial resources for their campaigns. The party successfully utilized social media to attract support from the youth and gain traction in conservative strongholds, including Bangkok.

In the parliamentary vote, Pita received 324 votes, but this was not enough to overcome the 199 abstentions, 182 votes against him, and 44 no-shows. Only 13 members of the conservative-leaning Senate backed him. Pita acknowledged that senators faced pressure and incentives that influenced their votes. He plans to re-strategize and convince them to align with the will of the people. Pita remains optimistic, believing that there is still time to secure more votes.

Overall, Pita Limjaroenrat’s determination to become prime minister and implement Move Forward Party’s agenda has faced significant challenges from conservative forces. However, he remains committed to his cause and will continue to rally support in his quest for power.

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