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Thailand’s Pita dominated in bid to become PM but ‘won’t give up

July 14, 2023: In Thailand, Thailand’s Pita Limjaroenrat died in his initial bid to become Thailand’s subsequent prime minister after being thwarted in a high-stakes parliamentary vote that included a host of no-shows and nearly 200 abstentions.

The leader of election winners Move Forward was unopposed in the contest but struggled to muster the needed help of more than half of the 749-member bicameral parliament, despite the backing of his eight-party alliance.

Another vote will be held next week, which Pita can contest if nominated again.

The progressive Move Forward party and its alliance partner, Pheu Thai, thrashed conservative pro-military parties in the May 14 election. It is seen widely as a resounding rejection of nearly a decade of government led or backed by the royalist military.

Thursday’s vote was a critical test of Pita’s political clout and a gauge of the opposition to his party’s anti-establishment agenda, which includes removing the military from politics, curbing business monopolies, and amending a law that prescribes long jail terms for insulting the monarchy.

His defeat was the latest blow in a torrid two days for the 42-year-old, U.S.-educated Pita, who saw two legal complaints against him gain momentum on the eve of the vote, including a recommendation to disqualify him, producing hundreds of demonstrators to gather and warn of moves ongoing to keep Move Forward from power.

Pita’s determination to pursue Move Forward’s agenda has put him at odds with a powerful nexus of conservatives and old-money families that have loomed large over Thai politics for decades and had been expected to try to thwart him in parliament.

Despite winning the election on tremendous youth support and popularity in Bangkok, Pita was required to win over some of the 249 members of the conservative-leaning upper house Senate, which was established by the military after a 2014 coup.

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Thailand’s Pita dominated in bid to become PM but ‘won’t give up