Pita Limjaroenrat, the leader and prime ministerial candidate of the Move Forward Party, is currently under investigation regarding his alleged shareholding in iTV Plc. If these allegations are proven true, it could result in his disqualification from assuming the position of Prime Minister and a subsequent ban from engaging in politics.
Although the election commission recently dismissed several cases pertaining specifically to holding the shares, the issue now is if Pita specifically ran for Prime Minister while knowingly having the shares and understanding they could disqualify him as Prime Minister, which could even potentially see jail time if convicted.
The case of Pita’s media holding came to light after a member of the former government, Ruangkrai Leekitwattana, filed a petition to the Election Commission (EC) calling for it to launch an investigation into Pita’s holding of 42,000 iTV shares, a media company that has been suspended from trading and its shares have been delisted from the Stock Exchange of Thailand for about fifteen years.
Under the Thai constitution, politicians are not allowed to hold shares in media firms. This is also part of the Move Forward Party’s charter.
Now, questions are being raised from both sides around the media shares (those supporting and opposing Pita in taking up the Prime Minister seat).
Those who support Pita said that the status of iTV is not clear as its status is being considered in the Supreme Administrative Court. Also, Pita, in fact, held the iTV shares as a heir for his late father, and had already transferred such shares to his relatives to avoid “future complications,” according to his explanation.
Additionally, several statements that appear to be conflicting about the operation of iTV have recently come to light, causing Move Forward Party members to believe certain individuals are specifically trying to relaunch the company as a way to block Pita from running for Prime Minister.
However, those who oppose Pita are saying that such moves do not have an impact as he has already breached the law by holding shares of iTV before he signed up for a PM candidacy and claiming that he specifically knew this was a disqualification.
Ruangkrai Leekitwattana, one of the first people who lodged a complaint, also pointed out that iTV was still technically continuing its media operations until this day despite its pending legal case. However, this point is debated as the company is only technically still running but not seemingly fully operational due to ongoing legal action.
The outcome of the investigation will have significant implications for Pita’s candidacy and Thailand’s political future.
The Move Forward Party won the most MP seats in the most recent Thai election and as a result Pita has clearly stated his intent to be the next Prime Minister. But this needs a significant coalition of votes, including in the non-elected Junta nominated senate, to do so at this time.
That obstacle though, along with keeping the coalition together, will come later if Pita can successfully tackle the current media share challenge. If Pita is disqualified as PM, he is the only member of Move Forward officially nominated and this would essentially mean the next PM would need to come from a different party, regardless of Move Forward winning the most MP seats.
For now, everyone continues to wait and watch while the Election Commission considers the charges and information and the next steps, whenever that may be.