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Thai PM Candidate Pita Willing to Let Ally Form Government

by Iam Sann
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Thailand’s front-runner for prime minister, Pita Limjaroenrat, said he is willing to step aside and let his coalition partner Pheu Thai Party form the next government, should he fail in his attempts to secure the country’s top political office.

In a video message posted on Saturday, Pita said he will renew his candidacy for prime minister when the parliament meets again Wednesday to elect a new leader, while acknowledging that time was running out for him to secure the top job. The 42-year-old leader of the Move Forward Party had been thwarted by conservative parties and the military-appointed Senate in his first attempt Thursday, despite being the lone candidate.

Pita urged supporters to help him on his “missions” and try “every way possible and every method imaginable” to convince senators to back his nomination in the second joint sitting of the National Assembly on July 19. His party is separately trying to push through a bill that seeks to strip the Senate of the power to vote.

His message came amid speculation that the conservative Palang Pracharath Party might nominate former army chief Prawit Wongsuwan to challenge Pita next week, in a move that could lead to a minority-led government backed by the royalist military establishment. The prolonged political uncertainty has weighed on the currency, stocks, and bonds in Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy.

Thursday’s vote undermined the popular choice of the people, who handed an overwhelming victory to pro-democracy parties in the May election. While Pita’s Move Forward and seven of its allies held 312 seats in the 500-member House of Representatives, they were outnumbered in the joint parliament sitting that included members of the Senate.

Even if Pheu Thai were to stake claim for government formation eventually, the party that finished in second place in the May 14 general election will still need to muster enough support from the Senate to succeed. But Pheu Thai may draw less resistance from the conservative senators as its agendas are seen as less reform-oriented than Move Forward’s.

Only 13 senators voted for Pita on Thursday, with the rest either abstaining or voting against his candidacy over his party’s push to reform the so-called lese majeste law that punishes anyone defaming or insulting the Thai king or other royals. That proposal was the subject of hourslong deliberation by conservative lawmakers and the reason why they could not support Pita.

“If we have tried our best in these two battlegrounds and it becomes evident that Move Forward Party has no chance at forming the next government, I’m willing to give Thailand a chance by letting Pheu Thai Party take the lead of the eight-party coalition,” he said in the video, adding that every Move Forward lawmaker will vote to endorse a prime minister candidate from Pheu Thai when the time comes.

“But until that day, we’re certainly not giving up,” he said. “I’m asking you to fight together until the end.”

It is not clear who among Pheu Thai’s three candidates for prime minister will be its top choice to take over from Pita if it comes to that. Paetongtarn Shinawatra, youngest daughter of exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who hasn’t set foot in the country since 2008, was consistently the country’s most favored prime minister choice in most pre-election surveys. Former property tycoon Srettha Thavisin is another prominent candidate.

Source: The Japan Times

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