- Parliament debates Pita’s nomination
- You have to climb a mountain to become a Prime Minister
- The party says the suspension will not affect the prime ministerial candidate
- Pita expected ‘pre-planned’ obstacles
BANGKOK, July 19 (Reuters) – Thailand’s Constitutional Court on Wednesday ordered the temporary suspension of prime ministerial hopeful Pita Limjaronrat from his post as a lawmaker.
The court’s verdict came after accepting a case that Bida, the leader of the winning Move Forward Party, was ineligible to contest the May 14 election because he owned shares in a media company in violation of election rules.
Pita, a 42-year-old American-educated liberal, lost his initial bid for the premiership in a parliamentary vote last week and needs the support of more than half of the bicameral parliament to become the next prime minister.
He had to overcome fierce opposition from rivals at odds with his party’s anti-establishment ambitions, including the royalist army, which appointed members of the Senate who had rejected PIDA in his initial bid.
It was not immediately clear whether the court announcement would prevent Wednesday’s vote, as lawmakers are still debating Pita’s candidacy.
Forming a government after the 2014 coup with parliamentary rules written by the military and an eight-party coalition that continues to support PIDA has been twisted in its favour.
The court ruling, the second active case involving Bida, came as lawmakers debated whether to allow Bida to run in a second vote for prime minister, after political rivals argued he had already been disqualified.
Bida argued that since the media company iTV has not been involved in mass media activities for many years, he has not violated any rules by owning its shares. He has 15 days to respond to the suspension, the court said in a statement.
Move forward that the court ruling will have no impact on the proceedings.
“Pita is the prime ministerial candidate as per law,” it said, urging people to follow the televised debate.
Bida has an uphill climb to become chief minister and Wednesday’s twin challenges from both his political opponents and the court are obstacles he expects.
In an interview on Tuesday he told Reuters the moves were “premeditated” and questioned the timing, describing the state army’s efforts to overthrow him as a “broken record”.
Thailand has been under a caretaker administration since March, and 65 days have passed since Move Forward’s stunning election victory over military-backed parties after nine years of government control by generals.
Reporting by Banarat Thepkumbanat, Banu Wongcha-um and Sayut Chetpoonsarng; Written by Martin Petty; Editing by Robert Birzel
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