This week, there appeared to be little traction in the public’s mind or acceptance that the results of the General Election outcome, acclaimed, more and more, as a historic shift for Thailand, could be overturned by the Election Commission’s pursuit of a complaint against the expected leader of the next government Mr Pita Limjaroenrat. Mr Pita, the Move Forward Party boss, doggedly pressed ahead not only with his coalition-building efforts in the face of rumours of an alternative coalition and tensions with the Pheu Thai Party over the position of Speaker of the House of Representatives but also signalled a determination to proceed with his party’s economic policies and pledges including a new minimum wage of ฿450 within 100 days of the new government taking up office.

Fears raised this week of the possibility of the May 14th General Election being nullified because of growing speculation over the fate of Move Forward Party leader Mr Pita Limjaroenrat were dismissed by Mr Pita himself on Friday who said the matter is under control and that he had been asked to provide further information that day by the Election Commission. Earlier in the week, Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam set off a storm of speculation by suggesting that a court-ordered new election is one of the outcomes possible as the public awaits the Election Commission’s decision on the matter. Even if it rules against Mr Pita, a decision by the country’s Constitutional Court may not come until November this year, months after the new coalition government hopes to take office in the middle of August.

Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam stirred up speculation earlier in the week when he outlined several scenarios emerging from the controversy over a complaint filed by Palang Pracharat Party party list candidate Mr Ruangkrai Leekitwattana in the days leading up to the May 14th General Election over shares in a defunct news and media firm iTV held by Move Forward Party leader Mr Pita Limjaroenrat since before the 2019 General Election and which he claims to have declared to the relevant authorities at the time of the last poll. The issue of the shares, unless dismissed promptly by the Election Commission, threatens to hang over the fate of the proposed eight-party coalition government even if it comes to power in August 2023.

Tensions continue to rise in the political world with comments in recent days from Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam suggesting that there is the possibility that the General Election result could be nullified and a new poll ordered if both the Election Commission and the Constitutional Court take a certain view over a complaint lodged linked with a defunct media shareholding held by Mr Pita Limjaroenrat, the leader of the victorious Move Forward Party.

The deputy prime minister appeared later in the week to try to walk back his speculative comments as a negative reaction to the prospect of the General Election being nullified grew.

Former Secretary-general of the Election Commission on Saturday dismissed speculation that the shares controversy will lead to wider consequences

On Saturday, ex-members of the powerful Election Commission such as Police Colonel Jarungvith Phumma, former Secretary-general of the body, quoted other cases before the Constitutional Court which suggested decisively that any actions by the Election Commission against Mr Pita Limjaroenrat on the issue of the shareholding in the media news firm would be limited to Mr Pita as an MP and would not undermine his certification of candidates in the election which was the basis for the fears raised earlier in the week with the possibility being floated that the election results could be swept aside or at least in respect of the Move Forward Party.

Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu, on one hand, pointed out that the constitutional provisions or political laws did not specify either the nature or extent of media shareholdings that were prohibited.

Mr Wissanu, at the same time, cautioned reporters that it was important not to jump to conclusions and negative speculation.

The shareholding in question is 42,000 shares left in the estate of Mr Pita Limjaroenrat’s father.

The shares are reportedly valuable as the defunct firm, iTV is still registered as a company and has a legal case pending against the government claiming ฿2 billion.

Move Forward leader, on Friday, confirmed that the Election Commission had requested further information from him as it reviews the complaint

On Friday, Mr Pita confirmed that he had now been contacted by the Election Commission asking to provide it with clarifications and again insisted, as he has from the outset, that the matter is neither a threat to his own position as an elected MP to parliament or to the eight party coalition currently pushing to form a government.

The proposed new government faces opposition from conservative forces within the establishment including entrenched members of the Thai Senate who have vowed never to support the Move Forward Party’s bid to lead the next administration because of its progressive policies which they claim are at odds with traditional Thai values.

Move Forward leader denies claims he held shares in media company barring him as a Bangkok MP

Mr Wissanu, the government’s legal expert, has raised a number of varying scenarios. 

One is that the matter is not pursued or upheld by the Constitutional Court, second, that Mr Pita is suspended or removed as an MP or third, that his role in politics is questioned and declared illegal while the ultimate scenario, raised days before the election by failed Palang Pracharat Party list candidate Mr Ruangkrai Leekitwattana, would call into question the election of all Move Forward Party MPs.

Shareholding case may have far-reaching consequences and may cast a pall over all political developments, creating uncertainty until year’s end

One outcome may see the Election Commission rule that the shareholding and attendant circumstances should not be acted upon depending on the results of its investigations and consideration of representations made by the 43-year-old Mr Pita, now seen by the public as Thailand’s Prime Minister-elect who is busy meeting representatives of industry and trade unions this week while working on forging the proposed eight party coalition and a more detailed programme for government.

In that scenario, Mr Wissanu said the case would be closed. That would also occur if the matter is referred to the Constitutional Court and it declines to take action.

However, Mr Wissanu then told reporters that Mr Pita could still be nominated and elected to the role of Prime Minister in August depending on the actions of the Constitutional Court even if it agrees to consider the complaint before it with a verdict that may come later in the year.

He said that if it accepts that case against him, it may suspend him as an MP but he may still legally be able to pursue election as prime minister as an external candidate.

Deputy PM: if complaint against Pita is upheld and the Election Commission or the court implies further consequences, the election could be nullified

However, if the complaint against him is more wide-ranging and extends to having the party leader removed from politics or backdating such a removal, then this could prohibit him from being nominated or elected as Prime Minister. 

This may also lead to a question being raised over the Move Forward Party MPs elected to parliament based on Mr Pita endorsing them as party leader.

If the Election Commission or the court were to take a wider view, then all this could be called into question.

On this basis, the government’s legal eagle considered that Thailand would probably be heading for an annulled General Election and a court-ordered new poll or some other resolution arrived at by the Constitutional Court.

Mr Wissanu said a lot depended on the nature of the complaint filed with the Election Commission and its conclusions as a result which would then be forwarded to the constitutional court to decide.

 ‘The details of the complaints are a key factor in determining how things will play out. You should not have such a far-fetched imagination. Consider it step by step. The EC has not taken any action. Do not jump towards any negative scenarios just yet,’ Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam told reporters this week but clearly the whole basis of Thailand’s future political development may be under threat depending on the outcome of deliberations by Thailand’s powerful Election Commission and later how the case is decided upon by the Constitutional Court.

Pita claims to have made the appropriate authorities aware of the shareholding, held as executor of his father’s estate, after the 2019 General Election

In the meantime, Mr Pita Limjaroenrat has said that he made the Election Commission aware of the 42,000 shares placed in his name at the time just after the 2019 General Election.

The shares in the defunct media firm iTV were held by him as the executor of his deceased father’s estate and were not owned by him.

He said he had received assurances some time ago on the matter suggesting everything was in order and that consequently, his position as an MP from 2019 was not in question.

However, this week, Mr Wissanu suggested that the Election Commission could only formally address such issues when a complaint is filed by a third party under the law.

Fears of an alternative coalition recede for now

The young party leader is still confident of being elected Prime Minister in early August. He would become Thailand’s 30th prime minister and the youngest to hold the position in over 78 years.

Mr Pita has had a busy week in which he appeared to face down a threatened revolt by the Pheu Thai Party’s grassroots over who should be Speaker of the House of Representatives with high-level talks on Tuesday where both parties leading the coalition seeming to have reached some sort of as yet undisclosed understanding.

Fears also appeared to recede later in the week over heightened speculation of secret talks with an alternative coalition between the Pheu Thai Party, the Democrat Party and the Bhumjaithai Party although more seasons and cynical political observers have not discounted such a possibility moving forward in what is still a highly uncertain political environment caused by the country’s complex and unwieldy constitutional provisions which generate intense oversight of political actors and a minefield of potential missteps.

Young leader pushed ahead with plans for a new minimum wage of ฿450 a day and the beginnings of a welfare state in Thailand with ongoing talks this week

In the meantime, the young leader has been meeting industry leaders including trade unions on Monday and on Wednesday, the Chambers of Commerce leadership with business representatives from over 40 countries led by Thai Chamber of Commerce Chairman Sanan Angubolkul.

Move Forward’s ฿450 minimum wage in 100 days seen as an earthquake moment for Thai factories
Thailand’s economy is at a tipping point as markets wake up to the potential for political turmoil

There are strong concerns about the Move Forward Party’s plans to raise the minimum daily wage to ฿450 within its first 100 days among business and workers leaders.

Nonetheless, there is even more concern right now about the threat of political instability and the uncertainty being fanned by complaints filed with the Election Commission.

Pheu Thai is facing a threat of dissolution with a complaint being pursued by the Election Commission

During the week, the Election Commission however rejected one of the complaints lodged against the Pheu Thai Party over its controversial digital wallet ฿10,000 giveaway proposal saying no further action will be required on that issue.

The policy was later withdrawn by the party in preparation for the Move Forward-led government.

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Further reading:

Compromise mooted between Pheu Thai and Move Forward on House Speaker job before key meeting

Kooky Palang Pracharat reports rejected on Tuesday by Prawit as Pheu Thai stands by Pita for PM

Move Forward’s ‘Government of Hope’ coalition delivers a programme promising a new charter

Jatuporn warns Pheu Thai may be turned as he predicts a political impasse. Should wait for 2024

Election vote for Move Forward may have been a cry for help from voters mired in short-term debt

Pita, Move Forward and eight other parties meet in Bangkok and come out smiling, ready to govern

Pita plots a new coalition government with Pheu Thai but open conflict has already raised its head in the Senate

Move Forward Party’s good election result leaves uncertainty as to who will form the government

Move Forward leader denies claims he held shares in media company barring him as a Bangkok MP

Move Forward Party surging in the polls as the General Election campaign enters its final week

PM warns giveaway policies of some parties may be ‘bad karma’ for the country in the longer run

Leader of PM’s UTN tells rally a government led by his party will ‘get tough’ with nation haters

Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan warns that those in power who support coups still exist

Former ministers rejoin the Palang Pracharat Party but there is no new economics czar Somkid

Ung Ing says Prawit is better liked than PM Prayut with reports of the return of key ex-ministers

Whip hand with Pheu Thai to secure power in this year’s General Election despite Senate’s waning power