Understand everything about the political earthquake that is shaking Thailand

The Thai kingdom is in uncertainty. The scenarios to determine who will take the lead of the country on Thursday are multiplying without it being possible to bring out a favorite. After the crushing victory of the opposition party Move Forward in the legislative elections, its leader Pita Limjaroenrat could take the post of Prime Minister.

But the army, in power for nearly a decade, has put in place a Constitution that is favorable to it. Pita Limjaroenrat risks suspension for suspicion of irregularities. To let you understand everything, 20 minutes provides you with an update on this particularly uncertain political situation.

What is Move Forward and who is its leader?

Move Forward is an opposition party, born from the ashes of Future Forward, which had a breakthrough at the polls in 2019 before being dissolved. In May, during the Thai legislative elections, he inflicted a historic setback on the army. While the junta has ruled for almost a decade, the country has been rocked by massive protests for more democracy in 2020. Anger and a desire for renewal, especially from the younger generations, which has led Move Forward leader Pita Limjaroenrat, to victory.

Telegenic, divorced, passed by Harvard, Pita Limjaroenrat embodies change. At the antipodes of Prayut Chan-O-Cha (69), a former general who came to power following a putsch in 2014, weakened by sluggish economic growth and the decline of fundamental freedoms. The Move Forward program includes a new Constitution, to replace the one in force since 2017 and considered favorable to the interests of the army, as well as the end of compulsory military service for men, the opening of certain markets and the legalization of marriage for everyone. The movement is the only one to dare to evoke a reform of the law which severely represses lèse-majesté, a taboo in Thailand where King Maha Vajiralongkorn enjoys a status of quasi-divinity.

Pita Limjaroenrat will he take the lead of the country?

The day after his party’s resounding victory, which the polls had not predicted, the man told journalists: “I am Pita Limjaroenrat, the next Prime Minister of Thailand”. But two months later, nothing is less certain. The Senate opposes him and its 250 members, appointed by the army, refute his reformist program. He is certainly supported by a coalition of eight parties which has 312 seats in the National Assembly, but this is not enough to reach the majority of 376 votes required in the two chambers of Parliament to claim the post of Prime Minister.

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More worryingly, the Thai electoral commission on Wednesday recommended the suspension of the reformist MP, under investigation for irregularities. The electoral commission has decided to transmit its conclusions to the Constitutional Court, on the eve of a crucial vote in the National Assembly and the Senate together to appoint the new Prime Minister.

What is Pita Limjaroenrat accused of and what could happen?

The leader of Move Forward is accused of having owned shares in a television channel during the campaign, in contravention of the law. The 42-year-old parliamentarian risks prison, the loss of his seat and ineligibility for twenty years. He defends himself against any illegal maneuver.

The Constitutional Court must now indicate whether it agrees to take up the case. The powerful body is involved in several of the cyclical crises that characterize Thai political life, between interference by the army and justice in the democratic process, and massive, sometimes violent demonstrations. Thailand has experienced a dozen successful coups since the end of the absolute monarchy in 1932. In the event of failure to appoint a Prime Minister on Thursday, deputies and senators will meet as many times as necessary, until the appointment from someone.

How do Pita Limjaroenrat and his party react to these developments?

The progressive MP denounces a “rapid” and “unfair” procedure against him. “I’m keeping my spirits up,” he told reporters as he left parliament, adding that the vote scheduled for Thursday to designate the new head of government must take place “as planned”.

His supporters see in the decision of the electoral commission a new obstacle erected by conservative pro-army circles who disapprove of his program, which is considered too radical. It is an “abuse of power”, denounced Move Forward in a press release, ensuring that the electoral commission did not give Pita “the opportunity to explain”. “Why so much haste? I see only one reason, it is to influence the result of the vote” on Thursday, explained Prinya Thaewanarumitkul, professor of public law at Thammasat University in Bangkok. “Senators need a reason not to vote for the candidate from the winning party, which has more than half the seats. They needed a reason to justify their action and here it is,” he said.

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