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Thai Elections

Thailand’s Pita defeated in parliament in bid for PM

Thailand’s Pita defeated in parliament in bid for PM
A supporter of Move Forward Party's leader and its prime ministerial candidate Pita Limjaroenrat waits for the result during a vote to elect a new prime minister outside the Parliament in Bangkok, Thailand, 13 July 2023. Thailand’s parliament convenes a joint session of Senate and House of Representatives in a crucial vote for a new prime minister after the 14 May general election. Election front-runner Limjaroenrat is nominated as the next prime minister after winning the general election and is currently working to form a coalition eight-parties government with 312 votes in the lower house but still needs another 64 legislators to secure the necessary 376 votes from among the 250 senators and 500 lower house representatives to become prime minister. A majority of senators opposed voting for Limjaroenrat, who was facing whether to be disqualified from a lawmaker over allegations that he violated election rules by shareholding a media firm as well as the concern over the Move Forward Party's policies on monarchy reform and foreign policy. EPA-EFE/NARONG SANGNAK

Thailand's Pita Limjaroenrat failed on Thursday in his initial bid to become Thailand's next prime minister, after he was thwarted in a high-stakes parliamentary vote that included a host of no-shows and nearly 200 abstentions.

The leader of election winners Move Forward was unopposed in the contest but struggled to muster the required support of more than half of 749-member the bicameral parliament, despite the backing of his eight-party alliance.

Another vote is expected to be held next week, which Pita can contest if nominated again.

The progressive Move Forward party and its alliance partner, Pheu Thai, thrashed conservative pro-military parties in the May 14 election, seen widely as a resounding rejection of nearly a decade of government led or backed by the royalist military.

Thursday’s vote was a critical test of Pita’s political clout and a gauge of the opposition to his party’s anti-establishment agenda, which includes removing the military from politics, curbing business monopolies and amending a law that prescribes long jail terms for insulting the monarchy.

His defeat was the latest blow in a torrid two days for the 42-year-old, U.S.-educated Pita, who saw two legal complaints against him gain momentum on the eve of the vote, including a recommendation to disqualify him, prompting hundreds of demonstrators to gather and warn of moves afoot to keep Move Forward from power.

Pita’s determination to pursue Move Forward’s agenda has put him at odds with a powerful nexus of conservatives and old-money families that have loomed large over Thai politics for decades, and had been expected to try to thwart him in parliament.

Despite winning the election on massive youth support and popularity in the capital Bangkok, Pita needed to win over some of the 249 members of the conservative-leaning upper house Senate, which was appointed by the military after a 2014 coup.

(Reporting by Panarat Thepgumpanat, Panu Wongcha-um, Orathai Sriring and Chayut Setboonsarng; Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Lincoln Feast and Kanupriya Kapoor)

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