Pita Limjaroenrat is no longer the face of the Move Forward party (MFP). The man who embodied political renewal in Thailand announced on Friday September 15 that he was resigning from his post as party leader due to problems with the law, four months after the resounding victory of the reformist party in the legislative elections. “I resigned as party leader of the MFP to pave the way for an MP who can speak in Parliament and be the leader of the opposition,” Pita Limjaroenrat wrote on her official Facebook page.
Move Forward won the largest number of seats in the National Assembly in May, buoyed by a wave of change after a near-decade of military rule, but refused to join the coalition that eventually came to power. The 43-year-old leader was thus blocked at the gates of power by conservative forces, who criticize him for his program deemed too radical vis-à-vis the monarchy, including a reform of lèse-majesté.
He was suspended this summer from his mandate as an MP, pending a decision from the Constitutional Court concerning his holding of shares in a television channel which has not broadcast since 2007. The Thai Constitution prohibits a parliamentarian to own stakes in a media. Pita Limjaorenrat is involved in another case before the Constitutional Court relating to aspects of the MFP program as a plan to “overthrow the monarchy”.
“I will stay involved in MFP.”
After three months of impasse, MFP's main partner within the pro-democracy coalition denounced their union and joined conservative groups in the outgoing government, resulting from the 2014 coup, to nominate its candidate, Srettha Thavisin, as prime minister – leaving Move Forward in opposition. Under current rules, the leader of the opposition must be an MP.
“Due to my suspension, I will not be able to obtain my position as an MP and leader of the opposition in the near future,” Pita wrote. “Whatever my role, I will remain involved in the MFP,” he continued, calling on his supporters to gather on September 24 in the center of the capital, Bangkok.
MP Rangsiman Rome, one of the figures of Move Forward, told Agence France-Presse (AFP) that the party needed to meet to appoint a new leader. This announced succession shows the solidity of Move Forward in Thailand, where parties are traditionally structured around a personality in the absence of a common ideology, according to an expert interviewed by AFP.