Pita's Premiership: So Near Yet So Far
Updated: Jul 31
In Thailand, the winner of the general election, a pro-reform candidate, Pita Limjaroenrat the leader of the Move Forward Party, was blocked from assuming the position of prime minister by unelected senators, creating a political deadlock. His proposed reforms, which include military overhaul, elimination of monopolies, and power decentralization, were viewed as threatening by the conservative establishment, including the military and the oligarchs. The senators specifically opposed his pledge to reform the lèse majesté law, a statute that penalizes criticism of the monarchy with jail sentences.
Pita Limjaroenrat, Leader of the Move Forward Party: [source]
The debate over the lèse majesté law has escalated, spotlighting the role of the monarchy within the framework of the constitutional parliamentary monarchy system. The election-winning candidate criticized the establishment's use of the monarchy to stifle political opposition and promised to reform the controversial law, a move that resonated with his broad base of supporters.
However, despite the democratic election, the national assembly vote includes senators chosen by the military junta, who largely declined to back the election winner, leading to a deadlock where no one can form a government. The "conservative force" is also using legal challenges to try and weaken the election-winning party, including a constitutional court case against the reform of the lèse majesté law and another case seeking to disqualify the elected leader from parliament.
Based on our previous prediction, the election result was expected to lead to a "hung parliament," a deadlock not among the general MPs, but between MPs opposing the coup and the faction of MPs and Senators who support or can tolerate the military junta. Under normal circumstances, the formation of a government in mature Western democracies can take months or even years. However, Thailand's political system, which doesn't tolerate prolonged impasses, tends to catalyze the emergence of new factions. We anticipate that these could be led by the Phue Thai Party in combination with parties from the previous government coalition. Potential next candidates might include Srettha Thavisin and Paethongtharn Shinawatra, the daughter of Thailand's iconic former Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra. If both fail to form a new government, General Prawit Wongsuwan, from the Palang Pracharat Party, who still wields significant influence over the senators, might assume leadership. In such a scenario, the Move Forward Party would likely exit the coalition and become the opposition, even as they vote in support of candidates from the Phue Thai Party.
Please be aware of circulating rumors that Thaksin plans to return to Thailand, accept a period of imprisonment, and possibly await a royal pardon. This would mirror the actions of Malaysia's current premier, Anwar Ibrahim, who received a full royal pardon from the Malaysian King in May 2018. Thaksin has hinted at his return to Thailand several times, both before and after the election. Another rumor suggests an internal meeting within the Shinawatra family, indicating that Paethongtharn might not yet be prepared to become the next Prime Minister. However, pursuing the role of Minister of Foreign Affairs, similar to her father's initial political position, could be a possibility.
The current eight-party coalition convened a meeting today and announced their collective support for Pita as their nominee for the Prime Minister election scheduled in the next two days at July 19, 2023. This announcement aligns with Pita's previous statement that he would make another attempt to secure the position. Should this attempt also fail, he plans to defer the nomination to candidates from the Phue Thai Party, either Sretta or Pethongtharn.
It's worth noting that six days ago, General Prayuth Chan-o-cha, the acting Prime Minister, has announced his resignation from the Ruam Thai Srang Chart Party, signaling a symbolic retirement from Thai politics via the party's Facebook page. This move also resolves the conflict between The Palang Pracharat Party and the Ruam Thai Srang Chart Party, a rift that emerged following Prayuth's decision to leave Palang Pracharat and join Ruam Thai Srang Chart before the election.