RECAP: How did MFP Leader Pita get suspended as MP?

July 19, members of parliament convened for the second prime ministerial voting following the prime minister elect Pita Limcharoenrat failed to secured enough supports from parliament on the first round during July 13. However, during the session, the constitutional court announced an order to suspend Pita’s role as MP owing to his ITV media stocks ownership.


To understand how the ruling was reached, it must be traced back to the appeal filed against him just days prior to when his party won the general election.


On May 10, political activist Ruangkrai Leekitwattana submitted a complaint with the Election Commission, seeking a Constitutional Court ruling on whether Pita had violated a provision of the Thai constitution that prohibits anyone with shares in or ownership of a media company from running for parliament. What followed was a national controversy divided between those who believe ITV has lost its mass media status since 2007 and those who think his eligibility for his position of prime minister is in jeopardy.


Then on June 9, the Election Commission opened an investigation into Pita, and it remained unclear at the time if the Election Commission would formalize a case against Pita.


Until July 12, the Electoral Commission has delivered the complaint to the Constitutional Court to consider Pita’s qualification the leader of the progressive party, a day just before the vote. Pita responded that the election commission’s suggestion to disqualify him was unjust, particularly the timing.


Ultimately, on July 19, shortly before the vote, the Constitutional Court accepted a lawsuit against him stating he was unqualified to run in the country’s May 14 election, hence, ordering a temporary suspension for additional review before reaching a final verdict, a procedure that would take practically 4 months.


However, despite the suspension and according to Thai law, Pita is still eligible to stand as a candidate for prime minister in the next round, but he must leave the lower house and will be unable to vote.


The outcome of the legislative vote on whether Pita may be re-nominated as Prime Minister has added fuel to the fire, since the parliament has blocked Mr. Pita’s second round prime ministerial candidacy.


Going forward what to closely watch is the potential for mass street protests from Move Forward’s supporters and the names in line for Prime Minister Nomination. Previously, Pita announced that if he does not acquire enough vote for PM he will allow the party with the second largest number of votes, or Phue Thai party, to nominate a candidate.


The next prime minister vote had been scheduled for July 27.


On the Phue Thai side, Dr. Chonnan Srikaew, the party’s leader, stated on June 20 that it is still unclear if the Pheu Thai Party will be the lead party to form a government. The matter still has to be discussed with the 8 coalition, but he is certain that the Pheu Thai Party’s nominee for prime minister would have sufficient support.


Nonetheless, the public widely suspects that Mr. Srettha Thavisin will be nominated.