Pita Limjaroenrat, leader of the reformist Move Forward party in Thailand, won the popular vote but has faced a significant setback in his quest to become Prime Minister. Despite holding a parliamentary majority, he fell short of acquiring the requisite number of votes in parliament to attain the position. The voting process to elect a prime minister will continue until the position is filled. However, Limjaroenrat faces further legal challenges that could result in him being disqualified.
Thailand is split between progressive first-time voters and conservative military-aligned factions. The conservative opposition Senators hold a combined majority with 249 votes, denying Limjaroenrat the required votes to become Prime Minister.
Additionally, two legal challenges stand in his path to power. One alleges his ownership of shares in a defunct media company, while the other claims his party’s proposal to amend the criminal royal defamation laws constitutes an attempt to overthrow the existing political order.
Recent demonstrations have highlighted frustration with the strict royal defamation law, which carries heavy consequences for those who speak out against the monarchy. Pro-democracy advocates view the law as stifling, which goes against their campaign promise of “demilitarization and decentralization” and breaking cycles of corruption that have plagued the nation.
In May 2023, Thailand held general elections and chose the Move Forward Party, headed by Pita Limjaroenrat, committed to ending military interference in politics and bringing about a more progressive, democratic Thailand, as the leading contender for the prime minister’s seat. The Pheu Thai party, led by Paetongtarn Shinawatra, the daughter of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, emerged as another leading contender. The victory signaled an abrupt change from military-backed regimes, pointing to a more optimistic political future for Thailand.
Outgoing Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, who orchestrated a coup in 2014, has since retired. According to analysts, Prayuth’s resignation signals the end of an era in Thai politics. Whether Limjaroenrat will assume power remains to be seen, but with the obstacles he currently faces, Thailand’s political future remains uncertain.