BANGKOK, THAILAND — Thailand’s parliament will vote on whether to appoint progressive party leader Pita Limjaroenrat prime minister on 13 July, the new House speaker announced Wednesday.
Pita’s pro-democracy Move Forward Party netted the most seats at the 14 May election but there are no guarantees it will be able to form government or that he will lead the country.
MFP has cobbled together an eight-party alliance, which also includes election runners-up Pheu Thai, with a total of 312 seats but remains well short of the 376 votes needed across both houses of parliament to endorse Pita for the top job.
Veteran lawmaker Wan Muhamad Noor Matha, who was appointed as a compromise candidate to the all-powerful House speaker role on Tuesday, has scheduled a joint sitting of parliament on 13 July to choose a prime minister.
Asked what would happen if Pita doesn’t have enough support, Wan Noor said: “The parliament will vote until we have a PM”.
“If the vote does not meet 376, we will do further votes,” he told reporters.
He would not be drawn on how many chances Pita would be given before alternative candidates are sought.
MFP has faced resistance from within the military-appointed, 250-member Senate since its election victory because of the party’s controversial push to reform Thailand’s royal defamation laws, as well as plans to shake up business monopolies.
The United Thai Nation Party said on Wednesday it was considering whether to put up a rival candidate against Pita.
Caretaker prime minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha, who came to power in a 2014 coup and formed a vast coalition government after the 2019 poll, sought re-election under that new party’s banner.
Political analysts say it would be technically possible for him to stay in power under a minority government with support from the Senate.
However, the election results were seen as a national rejection of Prayut and rule by military-linked parties.
Pita’s bid to be prime minister also faces other challenges outside parliament.
Thailand’s election commission set up an investigation last month to examine whether Pita was eligible to run for office because of allegations he owned shares in a now-defunct media company.
Legislators are not allowed to own media shares.