Pita Limjaroenrat
Sirachai Arunrugstichai—Getty Images

The only thing more stunning than Pita Limjaroenrat’s election victory was the radical agenda he ran on to achieve it. The Harvard graduate’s upstart Move Forward Party secured 38% of votes in Thailand’s May 14 ballot by promising to bridle the nation’s armed forces and revered royal palace, scrap its controversial royal-defamation law, and end military conscription. But the byzantine nature of Thai democracy means Pita’s path to power has been blocked by an unelected Senate and a flurry of legal challenges.

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Pita says his political awakening began in New Zealand, where he was sent for school as a young man. Today, the dad of one may not be Prime Minister, but the reformist movement he leads promises to keep building momentum, especially among young Thais. “I’m proud of what we have achieved,” Pita says. “And we can do a lot more to provide checks and balances in parliament and speak on the behalf of the people.”

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Write to Charlie Campbell at charlie.campbell@time.com.

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