Pita 'has sold iTV shares'

Pita 'has sold iTV shares'

MFP leader may still face disqualification

Pita for PM push: Activists led by P-Move rally in support of Move Forward Party leader Pita Limjaroenrat's bid to become the country's next prime minister. (Photo: Varuth Hirunyatheb)
Pita for PM push: Activists led by P-Move rally in support of Move Forward Party leader Pita Limjaroenrat's bid to become the country's next prime minister. (Photo: Varuth Hirunyatheb)

Move Forward Party (MFP) leader Pita Limjaroenrat has reportedly sold the shares he held in a media company in the hope of keeping his bid to become Thailand's next prime minister alive.

However, as the shares were sold after he had applied to run in the May 14 election, he may still be disqualified for violating the election law.

Political activist Ruangkrai Leekitwattana petitioned the Election Commission to investigate Mr Pita over the shares he held in iTV on May 10. On Monday, he said he would ask the EC to confirm whether or not Mr Pita has actually sold his stake in the company.

"Even if he has sold his shares, it won't have any bearing on the case, as he held the shares before he applied to run in the 2019 and this year's election," he said.

"If he sold the shares after the Move Forward Party nominated him as the party's prime minister candidate, then the violation had already been committed," Mr Ruangkrai added, citing Section 98 of the constitution.

The MFP leader is under scrutiny over the 42,000 shares he held in iTV, an independent broadcaster founded in the 1990s. Under the current constitution, a candidate is barred from running for office if he or she owns shares in a media company.

Mr Pita has said the complaint was filed for political reasons.

If found guilty of violating the election law, Mr Pita will be disqualified as an MP, which would complicate the MFP's efforts to form the next government.

According to Mr Pita, the shares were originally held by his father, who died in 2006.

As his late father's estate manager, Mr Pita said he tried to sell the shares but could not find a buyer. He had previously said that he had explained the matter to the EC before he was sworn in after the 2019 election.

iTV stopped broadcasting in 2007 and its licence was taken over by Thai PBS. The company was delisted from the Stock Exchange of Thailand in 2014.

However, its business registration remains active because it is embroiled in a dispute with the government over unpaid concession fees.

Senator Somchai Swangkarn echoed Mr Ruangkrai's view, saying Mr Pita may have been ineligible to run in the election.

Registrations for list-MP candidates were held on April 4-7, while Mr Pita supposedly sold his shares in May, Mr Somchai noted.

The Election Commission is now duty-bound to forward the case to the Constitutional Court for a ruling, Mr Somchai said, adding that the court's ruling is final and binding.

On Sunday, Mr Pita said that he was ready to explain the matter to the EC, though the poll agency has yet to contact him. He said nothing would obstruct his party's bid to form a government.

MFP secretary-general Chaithawat Tulathon said on Monday that the party's legal team is prepared to fight the allegations over Mr Pita's qualifications.

He insisted that Mr Pita did not violate any of the prohibitions stipulated by the constitution, as claimed by Mr Ruangkrai.

Meanwhile, the MFP on Monday expressed concern that the disqualification of MPs-elect found guilty of election law violations could undermine Mr Pita's bid to be the next prime minister.

Mr Chaithawat said that while he did not think the party's MPs-elect would be among those who would be disqualified, he admitted that problems could arise if those disqualified are from parties which are part of the MFP-led coalition.

According to the EC, complaints have been filed against more than 20 MPs-elect.

The MFP finished first in last month's poll with 151 seats, 10 more than Pheu Thai. The two parties and six others have formed a 313-member coalition that hopes to be the next government.

Separately, EC chairman Ittiporn Boonpracong said on Saturday that he was confident that 95% of the votes would be endorsed well ahead of the 60-day deadline for endorsement, which falls in mid-July.

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