BANGKOK — Thailand’s difficult road to appointing a new prime minister took a new twist on Saturday, as the candidate who led his party to first place in May’s general election said he is ready to step down from the dispute if he cannot win a second round of voting in Thailand. Parliament.
Pita Limjaroenrat, the 42-year-old leader of the progressive Avança Party, said he would be willing to let a coalition partner party put forward its candidate. However, he indicated that the political fight could continue for weeks.
Lawmakers did not confirm Pita as prime minister on Thursday despite his party’s surprise victory in May polls, when it won 151 seats in the 500-member House of Representatives. It then assembled an eight-party coalition that together has 312 seats, a clear majority in the lower house, which gives it the right to appoint a prime minister.
To be elected prime minister, a candidate must win a majority of votes in a joint session of the lower house and the 250-seat Senate. Thursday’s vote to confirm Pita garnered just 324 votes, far short of the 376 needed, largely because he failed to get enough Senate members on his side.
A second round of voting is expected on Wednesday.
Pita, in a Facebook video posted on Saturday, said that if it becomes clear that his party has no chance of endorsing his candidate, he will hand over the opportunity to the Pheu Thai Party, the second-largest in his coalition, with 141 seats in the Chamber.
Pita was the only Move Forward candidate while Pheu Thai has put forward three names for a possible prime minister: real estate tycoon Srettha Thavisin; Paetongtarn Shinawatra, the daughter of exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra who was ousted in a military coup in 2006; and Chaikasem Nitsiri, chief strategist of the party.
It was unclear Saturday which Pheu Thai would nominate.
Pita said that while Move Forward is committed to forming a government as the winner of the election, its fight goes beyond the 14 million voters who supported the party and the 27 million who voted for the eight parties in the his coalition
“This is a struggle of all the people of Thailand,” he said. “The voice of the people must be the voice that shapes the future of this country.”
He called for political compromise, saying: “We don’t have much time left, as I am well aware that Thailand cannot go forward for much longer without a people’s government.”
Move Forward announced on Friday that it wants to change the law to remove the Senate’s de facto veto power over who can form a new government and submitted a draft amendment to the Constitution. Pita said on Saturday that if all else fails, he will step aside to let Pheu Thai take the lead in nominating a prime minister.
If the amendment is successful, Pita’s nomination as prime minister will be put to another vote, possibly in September. If that fails, Move Forward will step aside, while remaining in the coalition, to let Pheu Thai put forward its prime ministerial candidate.