Thailand moved closer to a political standoff on Thursday as politicians gathered in the National Assembly to vote for a prime minister without a clear winner.
Director General, Go to Limjaroenrata charismatic young progressive, faced a major challenge in the early afternoon when the Election Commission of Thailand asked the Constitutional Court to suspend him from parliament.
Mr. Pita, who scored great politics victory over the ruling army and its allies in the general election in May, has been under investigation for holding undisclosed shares in a media company. On Wednesday, the Court also said that it accepted Mr. Pita’s complaint regarding his request to change the law they harshly punish opposition to the Thai monarchy.
There is no problem that did not stop Move Forward, Pita’s party, and other members of the coalition from electing him as prime minister on Thursday morning. But the hurdles will make it more difficult for him to garner the support he needs to become prime minister, raising hopes for new pro-democracy protests in a country that appears tired of military rule.
Thailand has a long history of military coups, and Pita’s supporters in particular see him as a victim of a military-controlled political group that they say is trying to thwart the will of Thai voters once again.
The Election Commission’s decision to approve the suspension “will be used as a new argument for senators not to vote for Pita,” said Wanwichit Boonprong, a political scientist at Rangsit University.
To become prime minister, Mr. Pita or one of his allies may need enough support in the 500-member House of Representatives to overcome opposition in the 250-member Senate, supported by the military. Anything less than 376 votes – a simple majority for both chambers – would leave the job dead.
Mr Pita is expected to fail to achieve that goal on Thursday. The second vote for the Prime Minister will be held on July 19, and the third, if necessary, the next day.
Pita’s progressive alliance may not be strong enough to deal with the loss if defeated. Members of Pheu Thai, the second largest party in the coalition, are expected to vote for Mr Pita but may try to form a new coalition led by one of the prime ministerial candidates after Thursday.
Pheu Thai may appoint Srettha Thavisin, a property tycoon who is known to be eligible for the Thai military, if Pita, 42, fails.
Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, the general who took power after leading Thailand’s most recent military coup in 2014, said on Tuesday he would retire from politics after a new government is formed. But the military and its allies may try to use other methods.
“This is very difficult, and it is difficult to predict” who will win, said Mr. Wanwichit.
Thailand is one of the largest and most important economies in Southeast Asia, a region that has been home to several countries sliding again to autocracy after experimenting with democracy. The country was once a staunch ally of the United States but has become closer to China under the current administration.
Mr. Pita told reporters on Wednesday that he felt that what the Election Commission was doing against him was not fair and should not be too close to the vote of the parliamentarians. Supporters of his coalition are expected to gather outside the parliament in Bangkok ahead of a vote on the prime minister on Thursday evening.
The vote, and potential protests, could fuel growing anger at Thailand’s ruling elite, sparking further unrest in the country.