Thailand's Pita beats issues as competitor desire to rush PM request

July 20, 2023: On Wednesday, the leader of Thailand’s election-winning Move Forward Party completed fresh obstacles in his prime ministerial bid, as a court suspended him as a lawmaker and rivals mounted a parliamentary challenge to try to rush his nomination.

U.S.-educated liberal Pita Limjaroenrat has an arduous path to the top job, needing the support of more than half of the bicameral parliament and to overcome powerful resistance from a royalist military at odds with his party’s anti-establishment ambitions.

On Wednesday, the legislature convened for Pita’s second shot at the top job. Still, his enemies moved immediately to derail him by questioning the parliamentary rule under which his eight-party alliance nominated him.

As an hours-long debate ensued, the Constitutional Court separately announced Pita had been temporarily suspended as a lawmaker over an allegation that he violated election rules which holds shares in a media firm, taking on its second complaint against him in six days.

The suspension does not bar Pita from running for premier, and the 42-year-old had told Reuters in an interview that he was expecting “pre-planned” blocks, describing efforts by the military to stop him as like a “broken record.”

A caretaker administration has run Thailand since March, and 65 days have passed since Move Forward’s incredible May 14 election triumph over military-backed parties in what was widely considered a clear public rejection of nine years of government controlled by generals.

“Thailand is not the same since May 14. We have come halfway from the people’s victory, and there is another half to go,” a smiling Pita told the house as he acknowledged the court’s suspension order, receiving fist-bumps and applause.

Wednesday’s drama was the latest wrench in a two-decade battle for power in Thailand between elected parties and conservatives, including the military, political bans, court interventions, two coups, and sometimes violent street demonstrations.

Hundreds of Pita’s advocates gathered peacefully in Bangkok to protest against the efforts to stop him, some carrying signs denouncing senators for refusing to support him.

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