Thai court to decide on case seeking Pita’s disqualification | Politics News

DEVELOPING STORY,

Move comes a day before the parliament votes on Pita Limjaroenrat’s bid to become the next prime minister of Thailand.

Thailand’s election commission has asked the country’s Constitutional Court to rule on whether the leader of the progressive party that won the most seats in a recent vote should be disqualified from parliament, according to media reports.

The referral of the case against Pita Limjaroenrat, who heads the Move Forward Party, came on Wednesday, a day before the bicameral parliament is scheduled to vote on the 42-year-old businessman’s bid to become the next prime minister of Thailand.

Pita has the backing of eight parties in an alliance seeking to form a new government.

But he has faced a number of challenges, and last month the election commission set up a special committee to investigate whether he was qualified to run for office.

“The Election Commission has considered the issue… and perceives that the status of Pita Limcharoenrat is considered to be voided, according to the Thai Constitution”, the poll body said in a statement, adding that it had concluded its probe.

It confirmed they will submit their findings to the Constitutional Court for “further consideration”.

The commission has been looking into whether Pita was knowingly unfit to register as a parliamentary candidate because of his ownership of shares in a media firm, which is prohibited under election rules.

Pita has downplayed the issue, arguing the shares in the firm, iTV, have since been transferred and the company was not an active media organisation. He faces disqualification, up to 10 years in jail and a 20-year ban from politics if found to have broken the rules.

It is unclear when the Constitutional Court may rule on the case, although it was due to meet Wednesday.

Under Thailand’s rules, even if Pita is suspended as an member of parliament, he is still eligible to run for prime minister.

Move Forward, in a statement, accused the election commission of rushing its referral of the case and said Pita should have been given a chance to respond and refute the allegations.

Future Forward, Move Forward’s predecessor party, was also hit with a similar legal case in 2019, when the Constitutional Court disqualified billionaire leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit as a member of parliament.

The decision pushed tens of thousands of young demonstrators into the streets.

Move Forward and another opposition party, Pheu Thai, trounced rivals allied with the military in the May 14 election, in what was widely seen as an overwhelming rejection of nine years of government led or backed by the country’s generals.

The party’s anti-establishment agenda – which includes reducing the military’s political role, undoing monopolies and reviewing a controversial law against insulting the monarchy – clashes with the interests of the royalist army and old-money business elite that has influenced politics for decades in Southeast Asia’s second-biggest economy.

 

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