Even as Mr Pita rallied his audiences on Sunday and addressed a message of unity to all politicians in parliament, there came another challenge against him from his arch critic Mr Ruangkrai Leekitwattana of the Palang Pracharat Party seeking to make a complaint about the political leader’s authorship of four books and asking the Election Commission if this may be construed as the operation of a newspaper under Thailand’s Printing Recordation Act of 2007.
It is a week in Thai politics in which anything can happen. However, with a clear campaign coming from conservative elements to foil his bid at being elected Prime Minister on Thursday, 43-year-old Mr Pita Limjaroenrat has been rallying momentum to support the May 14th General Election result and the will of the people. The Move Forward Party leadership insists that the votes are there in parliament from among more responsible members of the Senate to elect Mr Pita. It also looks increasingly like the eight-party coalition will not waiver and will maintain its shape no matter what happens in Thursday’s momentous vote, to bring about a truly democratic government and implement the election result. On Monday, reports emerged that one strategy being considered was to repeatedly put Mr Pita’s name before joint sittings of parliament even if his bid to be elected is rejected on Thursday in a campaign to encourage members of the Senate to rally behind the will of the people or to count down the clock until May 2024 when its say in the matter expires under the Constitution in any event.
A historic week in Thai politics began with rumours swirling linked with potential dramatic moves this week to prevent the election as Thailand’s 30th Prime Minister of Mr Pita Limjaroenrat who on Sunday held rallies in Suphan Buri and Bangkok, during which he urged senators and waivering MPs in the House of Representatives to take advantage of the opportunity to return Thailand to full democracy by supporting his candidacy.
On Monday, the Election Commission announced that it would not be forwarding a case under Section 82 of the 2017 Constitution to the Constitutional Court yet.
This news came despite frenzied speculation over the weekend that this was on the cards and threats of legal action by some key members of the Senate at the delay in doing so before now.
Chairman of the Election Commission scotched, for now, the prospect of the Election Commission causing a last-ditch Constitutional Court review of Mr Pita
The announcement came from the Chairman of the body Mr Ittiporn Boonpracong after a committee of the agency reviewed the latest evidence and information at its disposal in its ongoing review of complaints against Mr Pita.
The way is also still open for either 10% of the House of Representatives or Senate to mount such a move in the future under the charter. The Election Commission itself may also forward the case at another time.
Mr Pita, on Sunday, at enthusiastic and peaceful rallies, told audiences that the eight-party coalition supporting him for Prime Minister attained 72% of the votes in the May 14th General Election and that this result should be respected.
Before a rally in Bangkok attended by up to 1,000 supporters, Mr Pita visited Suphan Buri province in central Thailand where he urged fellow MPs and politicians to rally to his side to return the country to democracy.
‘If you or my fellow MPs agree it’s time to end the unusual political developments and return the country to normality, you don’t have to choose me but any new government that comes from the people, will you?’ he asked the enthusiastic crowd before him, many dressed in orange.
Pita suggests that the coalition will ‘keep voting’ until democracy prevails in parliament and the May 14th General Election result is honoured
Afterwards, he was asked by reporters what he would do if on Thursday his candidacy for Prime Minister was rejected by the combined session of Parliament.
He replied: ‘Keep voting then’.
His comments come as reports circulated on Monday that strategists with the Eight Party Coalition are proposing that Mr Pita’s name be repeatedly put before Parliament as the choice for Prime Minister if the vote on Thursday is inconclusive.
It has been suggested that such a proposition may be repeated continuously even if it means running down the clock until May 2024 when the Senate’s say on the issue will expire under Section 272 of the Constitution.
On Monday, rumours were swirling about this strategy, even prompting some MPs within the 8-Party coalition to question their leadership as to what the voting strategy of the group will be after next Thursday.
Pheu Thai Secretary-general asked for clarification on the voting strategy of the eight-party coalition and ruled out support for a minority government
It is being reported that a meeting will be held on Tuesday of the coalition group with Pheu Thai Party Secretary-general Prasert Chanthararuangthong being among those on Monday who asked for clarification on this issue but, at the same time, underlining that he personally was against any proposal that would lead to his party supporting a minority government.
Despite the divisions, which appeared between the Move Forward and Pheu Thai parties last week, the new coalition appears united in its goal to adhere to democratic principles in the face of a quiet campaign by elements aligned with the outgoing government to frustrate the political ambitions of the Move Forward Party and Mr Pita whose win in the General Election came as a shock to many in the establishment.
Over the weekend, the deputy leader of the Palang Pracharat Party, Mr Chaiwut Thanakhamanusorn suggested that parties associated with the caretaker government may meet this week to consider who they should nominate as Prime Minister.
Mr Chaiwut suggested that both Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan and Deputy Prime Minister Anutin Charnvirakul were suitable candidates.
Constitutional Court intervention was anticipated on Wednesday until the Election Commission backed off on Monday evening after its weekly meeting
His comments came amid the strong reports of a possible Constitutional Court intervention which had been expected from the Election Commission on Tuesday and a possible reference to the Constitutional Court, which meets on Wednesday, the day before the decisive vote on Thailand’s next Prime Minister.
This initiative was upended by Monday evening’s decision by the Election Commission itself.
In the meantime, Mr Pita appears to be focused on rallying support for the coalition and his candidacy for Prime Minister.
Speaking on Sunday, he urged senators and MPs in Parliament not to disappoint the will of the people.
Public opinion is confident that Mr Pita will be elected as Prime Minister and has voiced strong displeasure at political squabbling and game playing
His rallies came as a nationwide opinion poll conducted by NIDA, the National Institute for Development Administration, suggested that a significant majority of Thai people believe that the eight-party coalition will be successful in raising Mr Pita to the Prime Minister’s office in due course.
The survey showed that 56.1% of a sample of 1078 people who responded to the survey between July 5th and 7th thought that this Thursday’s election for the next Prime Minister will go off smoothly.
The same poll indicated that 71.65% were concerned and wanted to see a new Prime Minister appointed as soon as possible.
A further outcome of the poll was that 78.5% urged those in Parliament to act in the public interest.
Echoing the views expressed in the poll on Sunday, Mr Pita reiterated his determination to pursue the will of the people as he addressed himself to politicians in parliament.
Strong message of cooperation and unity from Mr Pita on Sunday in stirring speech as he addressed himself to all politicians in parliament on all sides
‘Let me send a message to the people that if you don’t retreat, I won’t back down either. Nothing is impossible. If we walk together, then on July 13th I am ready to be the Prime Minister of all of you, whether you are the new generation, the senior or wherever you are in Thailand. Whether you elected me or not, to my fellow members of the House of Representatives, we are all the result of irregularities of this Constitution or the dissolution of various parties. Whether you are the opposition or the government, Thailand must be given a chance. Please don’t miss this opportunity because the people may lose faith in the parliamentary system. They may have no further faith in you and will never forgive us again. Please don’t disappoint the people. My brothers, my friends, senators, even though our origins are different, we are the people’s politicians too.’
His stirring appeal came as activist Ruangkrai Leekitwattana, a failed party list candidate of the Palang Pracharat Party continued his campaign against Mr Pita.
Mr Ruangkrai raised Mr Pita’s career as a writer and the author of at least four books.
The activist suggested that this may be considered the operation of a newspaper as defined under Thailand’s Recordation Act of 2007.
This law lays down how a newspaper in Thailand is recorded and listed by the government together with the required characteristics.
Latest challenge over Mr Pita’s writings
He said he was ready to file a complaint on this basis with the Election Commission asking if this could be the basis for legal action against him.
It comes as a leading senator questioned the delay by that body in taking action against Mr Pita over the complaint concerning his ITV shareholding in a defunct media firm in his capacity as the executor of his father’s estate.
Senator Somchai Sawangkarn insisted that the Election Commission must bring this matter immediately before the Constitutional Court to have Mr Pita suspended from his duties.