• World
  • Thailand

Popular Thai PM Candidate Pita Limjaroenrat Resigns as Leader of Move Forward Party

3 minute read
Updated: | Originally published: ;

Pita Limjaroenrat, whose bid to become Thailand’s prime minister was thwarted by the royalist conservative establishment, resigned as leader of the popular Move Forward Party to pave way for a new chief to become the opposition leader in parliament.

Pita said he was stepping down as he couldn’t take up the opposition leader’s job because of his suspension as a lawmaker. He was among the 151 Move Forward lawmakers elected to Thailand’s 500-member House of Representatives in the May general election.

Read More: The Man Who Upended Thailand’s Politics

“Regardless of my status, I’m not going anywhere,” Pita said in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, on Friday. “I’ll still be working with Move Forward Party and the people to the best of my strength and abilities to drive the change agendas that we want together.” 

Pita, who turned 43 last week, was suspended as a lawmaker nearly two months ago, pending a Constitutional Court verdict on a case brought on by the Election Commission that alleged the Harvard-educated politician had breached election rules by holding shares in a media company.

Move Forward also faces a dissolution threat after the same court decided to hear a case alleging that the party sought to overthrow the monarchy with its vow to amend the country’s royal defamation law. The party won the largest number of seats in the election, riding on a wave of support from mostly the young and urban voters who grew tired of nine years of military-backed rule under former junta leader Prayuth Chan-Ocha.

Pita’s bid to form a government under a coalition of pro-democracy parties was blocked by influential senators and military-backed conservative parties due to Move Forward’s unwillingness to back down from a pledge to amend royal insult laws.

New Equations   

A realignment of political equations saw Pheu Thai Party — linked to former premier Thaksin Shinawatra and which previously backed Pita — form a new coalition that included most of the pro-royalist and conservative groups. Srettha Thavisin, a former property tycoon, was selected as premier last month just hours after Thaksin returned to Thailand from 15 years of self-imposed exile as part of a deal with the royalist establishment.

Move Forward will hold a general meeting to elect new executives on Sept. 23, according to secretary-general Chaithawat Tulathon, who along with deputy leader Sirikanya Tansakun are seen as top contenders to replace Pita.

More Must-Reads from TIME

Contact us at letters@time.com