August 19, 2019
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Thailand opens new parliament with opposition leader suspended

Bangkok, May 24 (efe-epa).- Thailand's Parliament will open its first session in five years on Friday with one of the leading opposition figures suspended at the last minute by the Constitutional Court.

The legislature will be formed with the takeover of 500 lawmakers of the House of Representatives (lower house) elected in the Mar. 24 elections and 250 Senators (upper house) handpicked by the military junta that has governed the country since the 2014 coup.

It is not known if Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, leader of the Anakot Mai ("Future Forward") - which secured the third highest number of votes - will be attending the session after a panel of nine judges of the Constitutional Court, Thursday, unanimously accepted the disqualification claim on the recommendation of the Election Commission.

According to the Commission, which was also hand picked by the junta, Thanathorn, a 40-year-old entrepreneur, violated the constitution when he registered his candidacy while still owning shares in a media company.

A Future Forward spokesperson said Friday that it was unclear whether the party leader would be able to attend the session because of the suspension which will prevent him from speaking in the lower house or perform his parliamentary duties.

Thanathorn, who clarified that he had sold the shares of the media company V-Luck before the elections, vindicated his status as a member of parliament and urged his followers not to be discouraged, despite the judges' decision.

"I want to say that this time is not the time for desperation. But it is time to expose the evil of the dictatorship," Thanathorn said on his Facebook account.

"What is happening is an injustice. I want to invite all those who still love justice to lift their faces majestically. Stand up and fight together to bring justice to Thai society," he added.

Future Forward, which was founded in 2018 with an agenda to reduce the powers of the military, decentralize power in the country and promote the rights of ethnic minorities and the LGBTI community, won more than 6.2 million votes - 17.65 percent - in the Mar. 24 election, helping it secure 80 seats.

Following the elections, the newly formed party allied with the Puea Thai, a party that was ousted in the coup five years ago and which has the most legislators (129), and four other minor parties, all of whom are anti-military junta, with the hopes of forming a government.

A government will be formed once the legislature elects the new prime minister, a position that Thanathorn had been vying for against military junta head Prayut Chan-ocha who has served as the prime minister since the coup.

Prayut, of the Palang Pracharat party, is the favorite to head the new government because, in addition to the 132 legislators of a pro-military junta coalition parties, he has the support of the 250 senators made up of military officers, police and bureaucrats linked to the junta.

The vote will take place at the end of the month, once the heads of the two houses of the legislature have been elected and ratified by King Vajiralongkorn, as announced Thursday by Deputy prime Minister, Wissanu Krea-Ngam, to the media.

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