On Tuesday, it was reported that Mr Pita Limjaroenrat has himself filed a complaint with the Criminal Court of Corruption against the Election Commission and its Chairman Ittiporn Boonpracong over its handling of the iTV share case against him since days before the General Election alleging that it failed in its duty in dealing fairly with the complaint and wider failures linked with the conduct of the 2023 national poll.
Move Forward Party leader Pita Limjaroenrat remained defiant on Wednesday afternoon after receiving a double blow when the Constitutional Court in the morning suspended him from his duties over a complaint relating to media shares and the joint session of parliament, in the evening, refused to vote on his nomination as Prime Minister with conservative elements defeating the eight party coalition by a significant margin in a vote in which the unelected Senate voted in force.
A defiant Pita Limjaroenrat on Wednesday vowed to return to Parliament and to carry on the fight for democracy in Thailand after he was suspended by order of the Constitutional Court.
The court of nine judges sitting on Wednesday morning agreed in a unanimous vote to take up a case against him referred to it by the Election Commission at the last minute, on Wednesday last, the day before Pita was nominated for Prime Minister.
Pita files a complaint to Criminal Court of Corruption against the Election Commission and its Chairman Ittiporn Boonpracong over the shares complaint
The Election Commission itself is already the subject of another court case before the Central Criminal Court of Corruption being taken by Mr Pita against the body and its Chairman Ittiporn Boonpracong alleging, among other things, failures by the seven-member body concerning its decision-making processes that led to last Wednesday’s eleventh-hour decision by the agency to place the case before the Constitutional Court.
Mr Pita’s lawyers have alleged that the Election Commission failed in its duties to allow him to respond to the case made against him and to act earlier as the shareholding in question was on public record throughout his time as an MP from 2019 up to this year.
The case is set to come before the courts on August 8th next.
Thailand will never be the same after May 14th 2023 says Mr Pita as his political enemies move by stealth to exclude him and his party from politics
On Wednesday, Mr Pita warned that Thailand will never go back to the way it was before May 14th, when the Move Forward Party decisively won the General Election.
In the morning, Mr Pita was in the thick of negotiations on the Parliament floor where members of the Senate and MPs from the outgoing government had brought forward a motion opposing his renomination as Prime Minister for a second time suggesting that it was in breach of parliamentary regulations, when the news filtered through from the Constitutional Court.
The Move Forward Party leader gestured to other members of his group and wider political alliance by raising his MP identification card and appeared to be making ready to leave the chamber when Move Forward Party MP Wiroj Lakkhanaadisorn urged him to stay until he had received official notification of the Court’s decision.
Outside Parliament, a crowd of Move Forward Party supporters gathered in front of the building and made their displeasure at the Constitutional Court’s ruling known in front of riot police arrayed inside the precincts of the building.
Pita addressed the President of the Parliament to thank him on Wednesday afternoon as he left the session before his renomination as PM was blocked
The official written notification from the court arrived at the building at 2.43 pm.
Mr Pita then left the chamber with his fist raised and took the opportunity to thank the President of the Parliament, Mr Wan Muhamad Noor Matha.
‘I’d like to take this opportunity to say goodbye to the Parliament President until we meet again. I would like fellow members to use the Parliament to take care of the people. I think that Thailand is different since May 14th. If people have won halfway, the other half has yet to come. And even if I haven’t done my duty, I ask all fellow members to jointly take care of the people. Thank you very much, Mr President.’
In response, Mr Wan Muhamad Noor Matha thanked Mr Pita for respecting and obeying the court order.
Pita urged the public and the democratic political coalition to continue the fight saying that they were already halfway there and can achieve success
Mr Pita followed this later in the afternoon with a statement on the social media network Facebook in which he told the public that society in Thailand has changed.
‘Thailand is not the same,’ he declared.
He urged the public not to slide back to the past. The Move Forward Party leader urged his supporters and those who voted for democratic parties that make up a significant majority of the House of Representatives and up to 75% of voters, not to give up the fight.
‘We can achieve success, can you?’ he wrote.
The decision by the Constitutional Court came while Parliament was meeting and saw judges, subsequently, on a 7 to 2 basis ordering the suspension of Mr Pita from his current duties as an MP.
The court gave the Move Forward Party leader 15 days to make a written reply and to explain his position after receiving its decision on Wednesday.
Pita denies ownership of the iTV shares
Mr Pita has long argued that the shares in the defunct TV station iTV, which closed in 2007, were held by him only as part of his duties as the executor of his late father’s estate and were a matter of public record since before he was elected an MP in 2019.
In the aftermath of the controversy that arose just days before the election results emerged, Mr Pita legally renounced any legal claim to the shares, something which key legal experts in Thailand suggest, based on both the legal code and precedent, should be enough to clear him from any claim that he exercised ownership over the shares in contravention of the country’s electoral laws.
Leading Thammasat University academic rubbishes the basis for such legal action against Mr Pita based on case law and Thailand’s existing civil code
After Mr Pita left the chamber on Wednesday afternoon, a debate continued on whether his nomination as Prime Minister could proceed on the floor with a vote eventually coming at 5.10 pm in which 715 members of parliament voted.
This was 10 more than voted last week when Mr Pita was nominated for Prime Minister.
Senate votes in force to block Pita’s nomination again as Prime Minister in what is a significant change showing the unelected upper house is engaged
In a significant development, 394 members of the combined parliamentary session voted against allowing Mr Pita’s nomination to be put to Parliament, with 312 representing MPs in the Move Forward Party coalition voting in support of the renomination.
Eight parliamentarians abstained while one did not exercise the right to vote.
The decision was heavily influenced by a strong vote from the Senate which suggests that the Upper House is becoming more active and engaged in the ongoing political process and struggle.
The events on Wednesday still leave Thailand facing much uncertainty with credible reports that the Pheu Thai Party is wavering in its continued alliance with Move Forward.
The party is reported to be preparing to put forward businessman and former property mogul Srettha Thavisin as the next prime ministerial nominee of the coalition.
Pheu Thai Party at a crossroads as it prepares to nominate Srettha Thavisin as Prime Minister. It may well break ranks with the Move Forward Party now
This move, expected on Thursday, has now become fraught with risk since if Mr Srettha fails to be elected prime minister, it then becomes quite likely that he will not be allowed a second vote as occurred on Wednesday with Mr Pita.
The developments on Wednesday are coming with strong signals from the parties associated with the outgoing government and in particular Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan, the leader of the Palang Pracharat Party and Deputy Prime Minister Anutin Charnvirakul of the Bhumjaithai Party, that a movement is afoot to create a new government with an alternative coalition including outgoing government parties which would command a majority in the House of Representatives.
There is also continued concern at the possibility of another Constitutional Court intervention like that seen on Wednesday over the future of the Move Forward Party itself, which stands accused under Section 49 of the Constitution of undermining the state and the monarchy with its controversial stance on reform of Article 112 of the Criminal Code relating to lèse-majesté.
On Wednesday, many veteran MPs within the eight-party coalition that supported Mr Pita made it clear that, in the past, any nomination for Prime Minister was not considered a normal motion before Parliament.
But the President of the Parliament, Mr Wan Muhamad Noor Matha, insisted on putting it to the combined assembly, rather than making a decision himself.
Strong reports that Pheu Thai wil break ranks
On Wednesday morning, there were swirling reports that the Pheu Thai Party may be willing to cut itself adrift from the Move Forward Party and form a government with both the Bhumjaithai and Palang Pracharat parties.
The alternative for the kingdom will be a protracted political crisis.
One source said the Pheu Thai Party leadership was willing ‘to take the flak’ for the move which will be seen by many of its own supporters as a breach of trust and failure to take a principled stand for ‘democratic values’.
After Wednesday’s proceedings ended in Parliament, many MPs from the Move Forward Party joined a protest organised for Wednesday evening at Democracy Monument where a large crowd attended, including protesters who moved away from the Parliament where security forces strengthened protection measures to the Democracy Monument site.
Rally at Democracy Monument for Move Forward Party faithful, MPs and democratic activists who may soon be cut adrift from mainstream Thai politics
The rally at the Democracy Monument also saw a large police force deployed on Ratchadamnoen Road.
The stage of the rally showed pictures of Mr Pita and heard the crowd cheer the Move Forward MPs in what reporters suggested was a charged atmosphere.
MPs at the rally said that it was of paramount importance that the eight-party coalition continues to band together to implement the will of the people expressed in the May 14th General Election.
It must be noted, however, that these exhortations come in the face of contrary reports from sources close to the Pheu Thai Party leadership which suggests that a break may be imminent.