Thailand’s Parliament Sets July 13 Vote to Select Premier

Thailand News

Thailand will hold a joint session of its parliament on July 13 to elect a prime minister, taking a key step toward government formation almost two months after a group of pro-democracy parties swept the May election.

The 750-member National Assembly will convene for the vote at 9:30 a.m. next Thursday, Wan Muhamad Noor Matha, newly-elected speaker of the House of Representatives, told reporters on Wednesday. The session may not be immediately conclusive and may be only the first of many, as a successful premier candidate needs to gain the support of the majority of lawmakers, he said.

The eight-party coalition that has staked a claim to form Thailand’s next government will solely nominate Pita Limjaroenrat, the 42-year-old leader of the progressive Move Forward Party that won the most seats in the May 14 election. It is not yet clear if other parties will nominate someone to challenge Pita’s bid.

The coalition Pita’s cobbled together after the election currently commands 312 lawmakers, a clear majority in the 500-member House of Representatives. But he needs the support of over a fourth of the 250-member Senate — a body appointed by the royalist military establishment following a 2014 coup that will vote alongside the lower chamber.

Many senators oppose his Move Forward Party’s proposal to amend the lese majeste law, or Article 112 of the Thai criminal code, which penalizes criticisms against the king and other royals.

As the house speaker usually abstains from taking sides with any group, the coalition will likely be down one vote in support for Pita, leaving him still short of about 65 votes to reach the 376-vote marker to secure the premiership. As Pita has ruled out alliances with conservative parties, there is little alternative but to win as many Senate votes as possible.

Despite the uphill battle, Pita has said that he is confident he will secure the top job.