The signs point to change: In Thailand, Pita Limjaroenrat from the “Move Forward” party clearly won the election. He’s already being celebrated on the streets like a pop star. But does the military let him govern?
Election winner Pita Limjaroenrat can be driven through Thailand’s capital Bangkok on the roof of a car – symbolically past the Democracy Monument. Thousands cheer him on. Many wear orange, the color of the party, including 35-year-old Panpak.
“We’re so proud,” she says. “We used our right to vote and it was a success. In the past we didn’t succeed, but this time we did! Finally we will have a real democracy.”
42-year-old election winner Pita signs autographs like a pop star and swears he will change the country. At a press conference he had just announced that he was in coalition talks with five other former opposition parties.
“Law on lèse-majesté must be changed”
One of his most important topics: the change in the paragraph on lese majeste. Anyone who criticizes the monarchy in Thailand faces up to 15 years in prison.
“I think you can say that the zeitgeist has changed,” explains Pita. “And the duty of MPs is to take the mood of the population and pass progressive laws.”
The lèse-majesté law must be changed urgently. He speaks to a 15-year-old girl who has been in juvenile detention for over a month because of this.
“We have enough votes to bring the law back into parliament,” says the politician with conviction. “We want to ensure that there is a full discussion – with transparency – about the future relationship of the monarchy to the population.”
“Maybe Things Will Get Better”
The crowd in Bangkok is happy about the election victory of “Move Forward”. The party is strongest in the cities. But the high election victory shows that she got votes from all age groups and regions.
“I wish they would really do something about corruption,” says a man who collects rubbish on the streets of Bangkok. “It won’t go away, but I hope it will decrease.”
The 66-year-old bakery owner is skeptical that the Move Forward party can achieve this goal. “Your party leaders (the head of the “Move Forward” party, editor’s note) is from a new generation. Maybe things will get better,” says the entrepreneur. “But some of her plans are difficult to achieve. I’ll wait.”
Bureaucracy as a hurdle for “Move Forward”
Khemthong Tonsakulrungruang from Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok also sees the danger of a blockade. The party wants many radical changes at once.
“In order to be able to implement them, ‘Move Forward’ has to motivate the bureaucracy,” explains the scientist. “But the bureaucracy will definitely work against them.”
Former generals could block Pita
Despite his high election victory, it is also not clear whether Pita will also nominate the prime minister. Since the military changed the constitution, he is not only elected by the 500 newly elected MPs, but also by a 250-strong Senate. And he was appointed by the military, legal scholar Khemtong explains. “A lot of the senators are former army generals, former right-wingers, they are very stubborn.”
Some of them have already stated that they will not vote with the majority in the House of Representatives – that is, the will of the voters. One senator said he would only vote for someone who doesn’t cause problems for the country but is loyal to Thailand, the religion and the king.
The young party “Move Forward” has ruled out entering into a coalition with one of the old military parties. At the same time, they must deliver what they promised. Great expectations weigh on “Move Forward”.