The reformist election victor in Thailand has been nominated for prime minister at the inauguration of parliament.
In May, voters rejected the conservative military rule that had been in effect since the 2014 coup and elected Pita Limjaroenrat. To secure a majority, he requires the support of lawmakers appointed by the same military leaders. Mr. Pita also confronts imminent legal challenges that could result in his disqualification. His alliance has 312 ballots, which is 64 votes short of the 376 needed to become prime minister.
Before the parliamentary vote, the chief of the progressive Move Forward party expressed confidence in himself. Mr. Pita stated that numerous attempts have been made to thwart the majority government's ability to administer the country. In addition to the ballots he would need, Mr. Pita's ambitions appeared to take another hit on Wednesday when Thailand's notoriously conservative Constitutional Court accepted the Election Commission's recommendation that he be disqualified.
The court reports that it is currently evaluating two complaints against the leader of Move Forward; one alleges that he owns interests in a media company that has not operated for 15 years. The other complaint asserts that Move Forward's proposal to amend the draconian royal defamation lese majeste laws, which have resulted in the imprisonment of hundreds of monarchy critics, equates to an attempt to overthrow Thailand's entire political system.
It is unclear when the Constitutional Court will rule on the matter, but Mr. Pita can technically become prime minister even if he is removed from parliament, per Thai law. Before Thursday's parliamentary decision, the 42-year-old Harvard graduate and former tech executive led throngs of orange-clad supporters in massive rallies across the nation.
At a gathering on Sunday in front of one of Bangkok's largest retail complexes, Mr. Pita said, "I don't know how long we'll have to wait before the golden opportunity of 13 July returns." Before Thursday's session of parliament, outgoing Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha proclaimed his retirement from politics after nine years as the leader of a South East Asian nation.
Mr. Prayuth was the army chief who led the 2014 revolution to remove the country's corrupt civilian leaders. In both cases, a member of the dominant Shinawatra political dynasty was removed from power. Paetongtarn Shinawatra, daughter of the exiled former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, leads one of the largest blocs in Mr. Pita's coalition.
Under Mr. Prayuth's leadership, the decades-old lese majeste laws, which make it a crime to criticize the monarchy, were strictly enforced, and critics claimed this was an attempt to stifle free expression. During his tenure, individuals have been imprisoned for selling calendars with satirical duck images and posing as the country's monarch.
Mr. Pita referred to Mr. Prayuth's administration was Thailand's "lost decade" and pledged to end the cycle of corruption and military uprisings in the country. He promised demilitarization, demonopolization, and decentralization reforms. One of his most contentious campaign pledges is to amend lese majeste laws, which will prove challenging given Thais' high reverence for the monarchy.