Thailand, beloved by Russian tourists, is on the verge of a political crisis

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The country, beloved by tourists from all over the world, is on the verge of serious upheavals. The leader of Thailand’s most popular party has warned of a high price if he is not allowed to take power after he was hit ahead of a parliamentary vote to choose the next prime minister of the Asian kingdom, reports The Guardian.

Pita Limjaroenrath’s Progressive Forward Party won a majority of seats in the May election after promising major reforms to keep the military out of politics, eliminate powerful monopolies and change Thailand’s lèse-majesté law.

But he has a tough fight ahead of him, as election rules require him to win the support of a majority in parliament to become prime minister, which means he must secure the support of a sufficient number of senators who have been appointed by his military adversaries.

In comments to local media on Wednesday, Pita said he would have to pay a “high price in terms of principles and political standards” if he was not allowed to take office. “It’s about the voice of the people who cast their votes,” he said.

Pita spoke after facing significant setbacks related to legal cases brought against him. On Wednesday, the Electoral Commission announced that it had referred a case to the Constitutional Court accusing him of violating election rules by holding media shares and recommended that he be removed from his MP position. Pita denied any wrongdoing.

It was later announced that the Constitutional Court said it had accepted a second complaint against him and his party, saying that his plan to reform the strict lèse-majesté law, which protects the monarchy from criticism, amounted to an attempt to “overthrow the democratic regime of government with the king as head states”.

These cases do not prevent Pita from running for prime minister during Thursday’s vote, writes The Guardian. However, the events were seen by his supporters as politically motivated attempts to block his activities and provoked protests in several districts on Wednesday.

In the evening, crowds of people gathered in the center of Bangkok, some holding signs reading “Respect my vote” and “Senators do not vote against the will of the people.”

“Obviously, the old authorities won’t accept defeat so easily,” said Piyachart Kamonchot, 62, who came to Bangkok to show his support for Moving Forward. “The previous government will try to do everything to block the new government… People can’t stand it anymore. It’s been over nine years.”

Thailand has now been led by former army chief Prayut Chan-Ocha since he came to power in a coup d’état in 2014 and was appointed prime minister by parliament after elections in 2019. His party finished in a humiliating fifth place in this May’s election.

Arnon Nampa, a human rights lawyer and activist who was at the forefront of protests against the reform of the monarchy that erupted in 2020, addressed the crowd in Bangkok, saying: “Tomorrow, if we are betrayed, if we are prevented from forming a government elected by the people, we will definitely Let’s get up and fight.”

Pita has formed a coalition with other opposition parties that will give him 312 votes. This means he needs at least 64 votes from either senators or MPs outside his bloc.

The main point of contention for the senators is his party’s promise to reform the “lèse majesté law”, under which criticism of the monarchy can lead to imprisonment for up to 15 years. This law has been used against more than 250 people, including children, since 2020, when massive youth protests began that demanded reforms of the monarchy, including cuts to its budget.

Prinya Thevanarumitkul, an assistant professor of law at Thammasat University, questioned the speed with which the election commission announced its findings on Wednesday, just a day before the vote in parliament. “Regarding this urgency, is the reason only that the senators are not voting for a prime ministerial candidate who has been elected by a majority of the people?” – he wrote about it in social networks.

Ken Lohatepanont, a commentator on Thai politics, said the changes to the law were unlikely to change senators’ minds. “Senators who were going to vote for Pita based on arguments about Democratic legitimacy are likely to vote the same way, and senators who didn’t want to vote for Pita just have a new excuse,” he said.

No other candidate will run as an alternative to Pete on Thursday. However, the vote may be re-run if Pita does not receive sufficient support. It is possible that Move Forward coalition partner Pheu Tai, a party linked to exiled leader Thaksin Shinawatra, could nominate a candidate for a second or third ballot.

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