By Nontarat Phaicharoen
Thailand’s house speaker on Thursday indefinitely postponed a parliamentary vote for the next prime minister that was anticipated for this week, prolonging a political deadlock since the mid-May general election.
The announcement came shortly after the Constitutional Court said it needed more time to consider a petition challenging the constitutionality of Parliament’s blocking of Move Forward Party leader Pita Limjaroenrat as a prime ministerial candidate.
Speaker Wan Muhamad Noor Matha said the vote for PM, which had been expected as possibly happening on Friday, could go ahead only after the court ruling.
“There will be a ruling or order on Aug. 16 and we will set a new meeting then,” he told reporters.
In a statement, the Constitutional Court said it needed to weigh the petition carefully in the context of Thailand’s “democracy with the king as the head of the state.”
On July 19, conservative and pro-royal members of the upper house Senate used a parliamentary rule to block a second vote on Pita’s prime ministerial nomination.
The move threw Thailand into political limbo, which shows no signs of ending.
Despite winning the biggest share of votes at the polls on May 14, Move Forward’s progressive policies, including its ambitious plan to amend the Lèse-Majesté law that guards against royal defamation, have been vehemently opposed by Thailand’s traditional ruling elite.
After his second tilt at prime minister was blocked, Pita agreed to step aside so Pheu Thai, one of his allies, could nominate one of its leaders for PM.
But now, Pheu Thai has dumped Pita and his party. For many young Thais, Move Forward embodied their hopes that Thailand would soon see its first government without military ties come to power in more than nine years since a coup in 2014.
On Wednesday, Pheu Thai said it would establish a new alliance without Move Forward and nominate Srettha Thavisin as its candidate for prime minister.
Pheu Thai cited Move Forward’s pledge to reform the royal insult law as the main reason that other parties and Senators were reluctant to support a new coalition.
It is unclear which parties will be part of the new alliance, but Pheu Thai leader Cholnan Srikaew has said the party was confident in finding the “necessary numbers of supporters to form the government.”
Pheu Thai has already begun talks with military-aligned parties associated with the previous government, including rival parties Palang Pracharath Party, the United Thai Nation Party, and Bhumjaithai.
Though there will be no prime ministerial vote on Friday, Parliament will discuss the Move Forward Party’s motion to amend the 2017 Constitution, a military-backed charter which empowers the Senate to join the lower house to select a prime minister.
Wilawan Watcharasakwej in Bangkok contributed to this report.