Thai PM vote postponed, prolonging post-election deadlock

By AFP   July 25, 2023 | 01:56 am PT
Thai PM vote postponed, prolonging post-election deadlock
Srettha Thavisin, a local property tycoon and Pheu Thai Party's prime ministerial candidate, gestures in front of the media, after the polling stations closed, on the day of the general elections in Bangkok, Thailand, May 14, 2023. Photo by Reuters/Athit Perawongmetha
Thailand's parliament on Tuesday postponed a vote to choose a new prime minister, prolonging the kingdom's political deadlock more than two months after an election won by opposition parties.

Reformist candidate Pita Limjaroenrat, whose party won the election, failed to get enough votes in a first parliamentary sitting to select a prime minister on July 13 - blocked by military and pro-royalist senators.

He was refused a second ballot on July 19, but this decision is now being challenged at the Constitutional Court.

House speaker Wan Muhamad Noor Matha said the new vote for premier, scheduled for Thursday, had to wait for the court's decision.

"We have to cancel because the Ombudsman is about to send a case to the Constitutional Court," Wan told reporters.

"If we go ahead with the sitting on July 27, before the court has ruled, it could cause problems."

Pita's Move Forward Party (MFP) rode a wave of young and urban support eager for change to win a shock victory in May's election.

But their campaign promises of reform to the kingdom's strict royal defamation laws and monopolies provoked intense opposition from the conservative establishment.

"I am aware of the postponing of the parliament meeting," Pita told reporters.

"There is not much I can do but to be back on the ground and spend most of my time there."

Shortly before the second vote, the 42-year-old was also hit with a Constitutional Court case suspending him as an MP over his ownership of media shares, which is prohibited for lawmakers under Thai law.

This left his eight-party coalition scrambling, with MFP saying it would work to support the nominee from partner Pheu Thai, which came second in May's election.

Pheu Thai, seen as a vehicle for the Shinawatra political clan - whose members include two former prime ministers ousted by military coups in 2006 and 2014 - has yet to formally name its candidate for prime minister.

Political wrangling

To become prime minister, a candidate must be approved by a majority of both houses of parliament - the 500 elected MPs and the 250 senators appointed by the last junta.

Pita managed 324 votes across the two houses in the first ballot, with only 13 of the senators supporting him.

After talks with the other seven coalition parties on Friday, Pheu Thai party chief Chonlanan Srikaew said they would try to woo more senators in order to reach the 375 votes needed for a majority.

Pheu Thai held talks in recent days with a range of parties - including the pro-military groupings that made up the coalition government before the election.

Property tycoon Srettha Thavisin, one of Pheu Thai's three PM candidates during the election campaign, is expected to be put forward for the job when the next vote comes.

But the party faces difficult decisions about its coalition, with conservative forces refusing to help any government that includes MFP.

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