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BANGKOK – The liberal frontrunner to become Thailand’s next prime minister said on Saturday that he would withdraw his candidacy if parliament does not support next week after army-appointed lawmakers blocked his first attempt.

The Progressive Party (MFP), led by Pita Rimjaroenrat, won the most seats in the May elections after nine years of military-backed rule in the kingdom, backed by young Thais eager for progressive reforms. Earned.

but The campaign to lead the incoming administration of a Harvard-educated billionaire was knocked out Thursday Some senators in Congress consider his pledge to amend draconian royal defamation laws to be a red line.

Parliament held its second vote on Wednesday for a new prime minister, and Pita said he would back the candidate of his coalition partner Pheu Thai Party if he failed to win the necessary votes again.

“I would like to apologize for not being successful,” he said in a video speech posted on social media.

“We are ready to give Thailand a chance by forming a coalition with the party with the second most votes.”

On the first ballot, Pita fell 51 votes short of the 375 MPs needed to support his candidacy.

Only 13 senators voted for him, many speaking out against the MFP’s promise to loosen the kingdom’s royal defamation laws.

After the first vote, the party now ruled out the possibility of compromising a law change that would allow convicted critics of the monarchy to be sentenced to up to 15 years in prison.

“Please help me with this mission”

All 250 senators were appointed under a constitution drafted by the military government, which political analyst Thitinan Ponsudirak said was a definite obstacle to the MFP’s reformist platform.

“This is how the authorities and regime stay in power for the long term and prevent pro-democracy governments from emerging against them,” he told AFP on Friday.

Pita on Saturday urged supporters to be “creative” to voice their support for senators in the next round.

“I alone cannot change the minds of senators, so I ask you all to join us in this mission,” he said.

“Send a message to your senator in every way you can think of.”

The Pheu Thai Party, the MFP’s largest coalition partner, is seen as a vehicle for Shinawatra political circles whose members include two former prime ministers who were ousted in military coups in 2006 and 2014.

Property mogul Suretha Thavisin, 60, is widely rumored to be the Pheu Thai Party’s prime ministerial candidate if Pita’s candidacy fails again.

He is well liked by Thailand’s influential elite business leaders and is touted as a potential compromise candidate.

wave of support

Mr. Pita rode a wave of support, with voters vehemently rejecting nearly a decade of military-backed rule under Prayuth Chan-ocha, who came to power in a 2014 coup.

But the MFP’s reformist policies have drawn fierce opposition from conservatives who support the country’s regime.

Thursday’s vote on Mr Pita’s candidacy comes a day after Thailand’s top electoral body advised the constitutional court to suspend Mr Pita’s parliamentary standings, for senators already poised to vote against him. More fuel.

The election commission recommended Pita’s suspension from parliament for allegedly violating campaign rules.

The recommendation follows an investigation into Mr Pita’s ownership of shares in a media company that lawmakers are prohibited from owning under Thai law.

The station hasn’t aired since 2007, but Pita said he inherited the stock from his father.

The Constitutional Court also agreed to hear a case alleging that the MFP’s position on the Royal Defamation Act amounted to a plan to “overthrow” the constitutional monarchy. AFP Pita says he will withdraw from Thai prime minister election if he loses next election

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