Chaithawat Tulathon has declared himself the provisional leader of the Move Forward Party (MFP) pending the outcome of a legal battle by his predecessor.
Elected as the party's new leader along with the board of executives yesterday, Mr Chaithawat replaces Pita Limjaroenrat, who quit the MFP leadership in the middle of this month to pave the way for his replacement to assume the role of opposition leader.
Mr Pita himself has been suspended as an MP pending a court ruling on his iTV media share-holding case. His suspension is holding up the party from taking over as head of the opposition.
After he was chosen as leader yesterday, Mr Chaithawat labelled himself as a provisional leader filling in for Mr Pita while he is tied up with his legal battle.
The court suspended Mr Pita after accepting for consideration a complaint involving Mr Pita's inherited shares of the now defunct media company, iTV Plc.
The constitution prohibits politicians from holding stock in a media organisation. Mr Pita has argued the 42,000 shares were part of his late father's estate, which he managed as the executor. He said the title had since been transferred to his relatives.
"The new executives and I are prepared to stand down (if and when) Mr Pita stages a comeback as MP," Mr Chaithawat said. "The changes (in leadership) that have taken place today are therefore temporary."
Mr Chaithawat is succeeded by Apichart Sirisunthorn as party secretary-general. The voting results showed Mr Chaithawat was elected leader, receiving 330 votes in favour. Five voted against and three abstained.
The meeting also picked deputy party leaders: Pijarn Chaowapatthanawong, Natthawut Buaprathum, Pol Maj Gen Supisarn Pakdeenaruban and Sirikanya Tansakul.
Parit Wacharasindhu, a list MP, has been appointed as a party spokesman.
Mr Chaithawat said Mr Pita has been named an advisory chairman to the party who will drive the MFP's policies from outside parliament. "In the meantime, I will carry out my duty as opposition leader during this temporary arrangement," he said.
However, Mr Pita insisted his successor and the new party secretary-general are the "real deal". He was speaking before the party convened its meeting yesterday.
Born in Songkhla, Mr Chaithawa, 45, graduated in environmental engineering from Chulalongkorn University.