DEVELOPING STORYDEVELOPING STORY,
Move comes a day before the parliament votes on Pita Limjaroenrat’s bid to become the next prime minister of Thailand.
Thailand’s election commission has asked the country’s Constitutional Court to rule on whether the leader of the progressive party that won the most seats in a recent vote should be disqualified from parliament, according to media reports.
The referral of the case against Pita Limjaroenrat, who heads the Move Forward Party, came on Wednesday, a day before the bicameral parliament is scheduled to vote on the 42-year-old businessman’s bid to become the next prime minister of Thailand.
Pita has the backing of eight parties in an alliance seeking to form a new government.
The election commission’s move was reported by the Reuters news agency and three local media outlets.
The body has been looking into whether Pita was knowingly unfit to register as a parliamentary candidate because of his ownership of shares in a media firm, which is prohibited under election rules.
Pita has downplayed the issue, arguing the shares in the firm, iTV, have since been transferred and the company was not an active media organisation. He faces disqualification, up to 10 years in jail and a 20-year ban from politics if found to have broken the rules.
Move Forward, in a statement, accused the election commission of rushing its referral of the case and said Pita should have been given a chance to respond and refute the allegations.
Move Forward and another opposition party, Pheu Thai, trounced rivals allied with the military in the May 14 election, in what was widely seen as an overwhelming rejection of nine years of government led or backed by the country’s generals.
The party’s anti-establishment agenda – which includes reducing the military’s political role, undoing monopolies and reviewing a controversial law against insulting the monarchy – clashes with the interests of the royalist army and old-money business elite that has influenced politics for decades in Southeast Asia’s second-biggest economy.
Pita has since faced multiple complaints from rivals, three of which the election commission has dismissed for late submission. Four other complaints against his party have also been thrown out.