Pita Limjaroenrat failed on Thursday in his initial bid to become the country’s next prime minister, after he was unable to secure the required endorsement of more than half of the members of parliament.
The final tally was 324 votes in favour, 182 against and 199 abstentions, among the 705 members participating. The Move Forward Party (MFP) leader needed 375 votes — a simple majority of the 749 combined House and Senate seats — to win the office.
Mr Pita received 311 votes in favour from MPs and 148 against, with 39 abstentions. He received just 13 votes in favour from senators, 34 against and 159 abstentions.
Earlier Parliament President Wan Muhamad Noor Matha said second and third rounds of voting would take place on July 19 and 20. It is not yet clear whether the name of the Move Forward leader will be put forward again on one or both occasions.
“We accept the result, but we are not retreating,” Mr Pita told reporters shortly after the results were announced. “The result was not what we expected. We will work hard to gather support for the next vote. I will strategise again to make sure next time we get the votes needed.
“We will not change our policies, we must keep our promise to the people,” he added.
The voting at the joint sitting of the House of Representatives and the Senate followed six hours of debate on the qualifications of Mr Pita, the sole candidate.
Parliamentarians mainly discussed controversies concerning the intention of the MFP to change Section 112, or the lese-majeste law, and Mr Pita’s shareholding in iTV Plc. The constitution bans any media organisation shareholder from running in a general election.
Mr Wan adjourned the debate at 3.52pm. He praised parliamentarians for their cooperation in the session, which allowed the debate to conclude one hour earlier than planned.
The session saw 705 out of 749 parliamentarians (one senator resigned on Wednesday) confirming their attendance for the vote. The number included 216 senators.
Supporters of the Move Forward Party gather near parliament in Bangkok's Dusit district on Thursday. (Photo: Apichart Jinakul)