In Thailand there are still severe penalties for lèse majesty, but there is protest among the population. Now a coalition government is forming – with a pro-democracy party at the top.
After the election victory of the pro-democracy opposition party Move Forward Party in Thailand, leading candidate Pita Limjaroenrat announced that he wanted to form a coalition government with seven other parties. It is now considered more likely that the 42-year-old Harvard graduate could become the next prime minister in the kingdom. Together the parties would have 313 of the 500 seats in the House of Representatives, the Thai PBS World broadcaster reported on Thursday.
However, the head of government in Thailand is chosen by the 500 newly elected MPs along with 250 unelected military-appointed senators. After their 2014 coup, the generals who have been in power until now have amended the constitution in their favour. So a candidate needs 376 votes to become Prime Minister. It is considered questionable whether senators will support the opposition – and if so, how many. The vote is expected in late July or early August.
The main sticking point is the Move Forward party’s plan to change the controversial Lèse Majesté law: the popular holiday destination punishes lese-majesté more severely than almost any other country in the world. The law provides for long prison sentences, and very young Thais are arrested again and again. There have been protests against this among the population for a long time – but many conservative politicians want to stick to the law.
A memorandum of understanding (MoU) will be signed by all coalition parties on Monday, Pita announced to journalists. The date is significant: Exactly nine years ago, on May 22, 2014, the military seized power.
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