Thai Parliament Says Election Winner Can't Be PM

Military-appointed senators blocked Pita Limjaroenrat's nomination
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted May 15, 2023 8:00 AM CDT
Updated Jul 20, 2023 3:38 AM CDT
In Thailand, a 'Political Earthquake'
Pita Limjaroenrat, leader of the Move Forward party, leaves party headquarters in Bangkok, Thailand, Sunday, May 14, 2023.   (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
UPDATE Jul 20, 2023 3:38 AM CDT

The bitter battle to name Thailand's next prime minister took a major turn Wednesday as Parliament voted to deny Pita Limjaroenrat, whose progressive Move Forward Party won a surprise victory in May's election, a second chance to be confirmed for the post. Pita had assembled a coalition of parties holding a majority in the House of Representatives. But his nomination for PM was defeated in a joint vote of the House and Senate last week, with conservative military-appointed senators mostly refusing their support. A joint session debated Wednesday whether Pita could be nominated for a second time. A motion to deny him a second chance was passed 395-312 with eight abstentions, dashing the hopes of Pita's millions of supporters, the AP reports.

May 15, 2023 8:00 AM CDT

Voters in Thailand have delivered what is being described in coverage as a "political earthquake"—a clear message they are tired of military rule after nearly a decade. Whether the ruling junta accepts the message is another question.

  • The vote: In Sunday's general election, two opposition parties won a "stunning majority" of the 500 seats in the House, per the AP, which calls it a "major blow to the establishment parties and the former general who has led the Southeast Asian country since seizing power in a 2014 coup." The latter is Prime Minister Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha.

  • Back to democracy? "Ousting the military could mean a return to democratic rule, analysts say, with wider implications for the Southeast Asian region," per the Washington Post. "Also at stake is the legitimacy of traditional institutions such as the military and the monarchy, revered by older citizens but increasingly challenged by the younger generation.
  • Not so fast: The two winning parties are the youth-centric Move Forward (151 seats) and the main opposition party, Pheu Thai (141 seats). "In most parliamentary systems, the two parties would form a new governing coalition and choose a prime minister," per the New York Times. "But under the rules of the current Thai system, written by the military after its 2014 coup, the junta will still play kingmaker." One big reason is that the 250-seat Senate, whose members are appointed by the military, votes with the House for a prime minister. It could be weeks or months before Thailand knows its next leader.
  • A promise: "Whether you agree or disagree with me, I will be your prime minister," says 42-year-old Move Forward leader Pita Limjaroenrat. "Whether you have voted for me or not, I will serve you." His party is demanding changes to virtually every aspect of Thailand's government, particularly the role of the military and rules protecting the monarchy, per the BBC. Move Forward "has taken this election by storm," Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a political science professor at Bangkok's Chulalongkorn University, tells the Post. "It's breathtaking—a political earthquake."
(More Thailand stories.)

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