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Thai election body recommends PM frontrunner's suspension

July 12, 2023

Pita Limjaroenrat, the frontrunner for prime minister, has faced a number of challenges. Last month the Election Commission set up a special committee to investigate whether he was qualified to run for office.

Pita Limjaroenrat, attends a press conference following the general election
The case against Pita hinges on his alleged ownership of shares in a media companyImage: Athit Perawongmetha/REUTERS

Thailand's state Election Commission (EC) has recommended that the frontrunner for prime minister, Pita Limjaroenrat, be suspended as a member of parliament over the allegations he broke campaign rules. 

The announcement came on Wednesday, just a day before a parliamentary vote for the premiership

It is alleged that Move Forward Party's (MFP) Limjaroenrat, violated election law.

The EC also referred his case to the Constitutional Court for a ruling, Election Commission Chairman Ittiporn Boonprakong said.

"The Election Commission has considered the issue... and perceives that the status of Pita Limcharoenrat is considered to be voided, according to the Thai Constitution," EC said in a statement.

MFP accuses commission of 'abuse of power'

However, under Thailand's rules, even if Limjaroenrat is suspended as an MP, he is still eligible to run for prime minister. 

Pita Limjaroenrat during one of his campaigns during general elections
MFP has assembled an eight-party, 312-seat coalition as it had planned to take power.Image: Julian Küng/DW

The MFP accused the Election Commission of "abuse of power.”

"The decision to submit a case to the court saying there was enough evidence, without informing him of any charges and not allowing him a chance to explain as under the regulations set by the EC ... is an abuse of power under the criminal code," the party said in a statement.

Reacting to the EC's move, Limjaroenrat said he remained in "good spirits" despite election chiefs asking the court to suspend him.

Limjaroenrat's Move Forward Party won the most seats at May's election, capturing 151 seats in the 500-member House of Representatives. 

Thai Election Commission's probe

Meanwhile, he has faced a number of challenges, and last month the Election Commission set up a special committee to investigate whether he was qualified to run for office. 

The investigation centered around Limjaroenrat's ownership of shares in a now-defunct media company, which is prohibited for lawmakers under Thai election law. 

"Evidence has appeared that Pita Limchareonrat, MP, is the holder of media shares during the election registration date, which is a characteristic that is forbidden for election candidates," EC stated.

If found guilty in court, he could be barred from politics while facing up to 10 years in prison. 

ara/sms (AP,AFP)