Scuttling of Pita's PM bid
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Scuttling of Pita's PM bid

A decision by the Constitutional Court to suspend Move Forward Party leader Pita Limjaroenrat from duty as an elected member of the House of Representatives yesterday over the iTV share controversy has caused an uproar.

Groups of MFP well-wishers who gathered near parliament monitoring the session became agitated and took the street in protest against the charter court's decision.

As this newspaper went to print, the protests were ongoing.

The court injunction came the same day as Mr Pita was contending for the post of prime minister in parliament for a second time.

The first attempt, which took place on July 13, saw Mr Pita gain 324 votes from the joint sitting of the Lower House and the Senate.

In its ruling, the charter court agreed unanimously to accept a petition forwarded by Election Commission (EC) on July 12, a day before the PM voting session, that the court consider Mr Pita's iTV case.

The charter court ruled 7:2 in ordering the MFP to suspend his MP role. Mr Pita has 15 days to provide information in his defence.

A whistle-blower filed a complaint with the EC shortly before the May 14 election that Mr Pita might not be qualified for the race given his role as the executor of his late father's inheritance, including the 42,000 iTV shares, for nearly two decades. While disputing the accusation, Mr Pita transferred the shares to another person.

Mr Pita's case again shows the rigid enforcement of election laws that prevent politicians from owning shares in a media business, with the court's move effectively putting Mr Pita's political future in doubt.

The timing of the EC petition and the court order is perceived as disrupting the parliamentary process when members of the Lower and Upper Houses pick MPs.

Supporters of MFP and many critics again find suspicion over the judicialisation of politics amid attempts by the conservative camp to shoot down the 42-year-old politician's chances of securing from the top job.

Several critics, including Asst Prof Prinya Thaewanarumitkul of Thammasat University, questioned the EC's move in the iTV case.

Critics have pointed out that in filing complaints against Mr Pita, the EC disregarded court rulings in favour of more than 25 MPs, including Charnchai Issarasenarak of the Democrat Party, who also had shares in a media firm.

The Supreme Court ruled in Mr Charnchai's case that his 200 shares in AIS were too small to influence the media. Asst Prof Prinya thought that if the EC had considered the court ruling in the case of Mr Charnchai, it might have made a different decision in dealing with Mr Pita's iTV case.

The court injunction in Mr Pita's case rekindles memories about the court's penalties for Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, leader of the now-dissolved Future Forward party, the progenitor of the MFP.

But as if to rub salt in the wounds, parliament yesterday voted against re-nominating Mr Pita as PM candidate even if he is cleared of the iTV share allegations.

Now it remains unclear whether the MFP will remain in the eight-party government coalition. There are reports the party may be forced out, which means the government formation process will be further delayed. Such an uncertain political outlook puts the country at a disadvantage.


Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.

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