Thai court says popular politician can retain parliamentary seat

Thai Court Says Popular Politician Can Retain Parliamentary Seat
Thai political leader, © Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
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Thailand’s Constitutional Court has ruled that popular politician Pita Limjaroenrat, who was blocked from becoming prime minister even though his party placed first in last year’s election, did not violate election law and can retain his seat in parliament.

Mr Pita had been suspended from parliament pending the court ruling on whether he violated the law by owning shares in a media company.


He was the executor of his father’s estate which includes stock in ITV, a company that is the inactive operator of a defunct independent television station.

The court agreed with Mr Pita’s contention that ITV was not an operator of a media business.

By law, political candidates are prohibited from owning shares in any media company when they register to contest an election.

Mr Pita
Mr Pita receives a garland from his supporter as he leaves Constitutional Court in Bangkok (AP)

The ruling clears one hurdle for Mr Pita’s progressive Move Forward Party in stepping up its activities to position itself to win power in the next election, building on the plurality it won last year.

Recent polls suggest that the popularity of Mr Pita and his party remains strong, well ahead of current Thai prime minister Srettha Thavisin and his populist Pheu Thai party, which finished second in the election.

Mr Pita was forced to step down as leader of Move Forward when he was suspended from parliament.


The party’s election victory last year reflected a surprisingly strong mandate for change among Thai voters after nearly a decade of military-controlled government.

But the party was denied power by members of the conservative unelected senate, who were openly hostile to Move Forward’s proposals to consider mild reforms affecting the monarchy.

The senate, whose members were appointed by the military, joined the elected lower house in casting votes to choose a prime minister under a constitution that was adopted in 2017 under a military government.

The Move Forward Party now heads the opposition in parliament.


The nine-member panel of judges ruled 8-1 in Pita’s favour on Wednesday.

The ruling said: “ITV did not operate any newspapers or media businesses, therefore, the shareholding didn’t violate the Constitution’s Article 98. According to the above reasoning, the accused member’s parliamentary status isn’t suspended.”

Supporters celebrate
Supporters of Mr Pita celebrate outside court (AP)


Mr Pita said after the verdict: “I’m happy and will keep working as planned.”

About 40 supporters who had gathered outside the court with signs and flowers cheered Mr Pita as he walked out.

The ruling will allow Mr Pita to run again as a candidate for prime minister, said Parinya Thewanaruemitkun, a legal expert at Thammasat University.

He noted that the term of the currently serving military-appointed senators expires in May, opening up an opportunity for Mr Pita to take the job he was denied last year if the prime minister leaves office.

However, Mr Pita still faces another serious legal challenge this month.

Mr Pita
The case does not mark the end of Mr Pita’s legal problems (AP)

On January 31st, he is to appear again in the Constitutional Court in a separate case in which he and his party are accused of attempting to overthrow Thailand’s system of government by proposing an amendment to a law that makes it illegal to defame Thailand’s royal family, an offence known as lese majeste.

Critics say the law, which carries a penalty of up to 15 years in prison, is often abused as a political weapon.

The monarchy is considered by many people to be central to Thai identity, and conservative Thais insist that it must be protected.

While the complaint only calls on Move Forward to stop promoting an amendment of the law, its current leader, Chaithawat Tulathon, has said an unfavourable ruling could be used in future cases against the party that could lead to its dissolution.

Move Forward’s predecessor, the Future Forward Party, was dissolved by a Constitutional Court ruling in 2020.

Move Forward’s supporters have criticised the cases as dirty tricks similar to ones that have long been employed by the ruling conservative establishment to oust political rivals, using the courts and nominally independent state agencies such as the Election Commission as legal weapons.

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