Thailand to Hold PM Vote Next Week as New Bloc Eyes Power

Thailand’s parliament will meet next week to select a new prime minister after a court ruling cleared a legal hurdle that had held up the selection process for nearly a month.

(Bloomberg) — Thailand’s parliament will meet next week to select a new prime minister after a court ruling cleared a legal hurdle that had held up the selection process for nearly a month.  

A joint session of the elected House of Representatives and the military-appointed Senate will be held on Aug. 22, parliament speaker Wan Muhamad Noor Matha told reporters on Wednesday. It will be the second vote to select a prime minister since the May 14 general election that saw the defeat of pro-royalist and military-backed parties. 

The announcement of the new schedule came after the constitutional court dismissed a petition challenging a parliament decision last month to deny pro-democracy leader Pita Limjaroenrat a second shot at the prime minister’s job. The nine-member court unanimously rejected the plea, saying the plaintiffs were not eligible to challenge the parliament move as their rights were not directly violated.  

Srettha Thavisin, a property tycoon, is set to seek parliamentary approval as the prime ministerial candidate of a new coalition headed by Pheu Thai, a party linked to former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra. The party has tied up with some conservative outfits after it broke away from a Pita-led coalition. 

Investors are betting that the realignment of political parties with Pheu Thai at the helm will help install a new government more than three months after a general election. With the gridlock sending Thai stocks almost 10% lower this year, there’s growing pressure for the new administration to support the economy’s fragile recovery, curb high household debt and keep costs of living in check.

The Pheu Thai-led alliance, which is now backed by 238 lawmakers in the House of Representatives, needs to drum up support from the Senate and military-backed parties that it had opposed in the past. 

Senate Role

Srettha, 60, will need the support of the majority of 750 lawmakers in the joint National Assembly, which combines the elected lower house and the Senate that’s stacked with allies of the pro-military royalist establishment.

Move Forward, which won 151 seats in the elected house, has ruled out support for Srettha, saying Pheu Thai’s efforts to form the government with the backing of conservative parties are against the results of the May 14 election.

The new premier vote schedule is “a welcome relief” as it puts Thailand closer to a government formation, said Euben Paracuelles, an analyst at Nomura Holdings Inc. “But clearly the road to resolution has not been easy and people will likely still expect some bumps from here,” he said. 

The baht erased losses of as much as 0.3% after the court decision, while the main stock index closed 0.1% lower, sliding for a second straight day.    

The court decision ended Move Forward’s chances of leading the government though it had emerged as the single largest party in the election. Pita’s supporters had moved the court after conservative lawmakers and military-appointed senators blocked him from seeking a second vote to become premier. The Harvard-educated Pita had failed to secure enough support in his first attempt. 

Pita said he will not move the court against the parliament decision, as the issue should be settled within the legislature. Move Forward spokesman Rangsiman Rome said the party will propose a motion seeking a review of the move to deny Pita’s renomination. 

–With assistance from Pathom Sangwongwanich.

(Updates with comment from analyst in ninth paragraph.)

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