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Thailand’s Prime Minister Pita faces an Election Commission investigation

The commission will investigate whether Pita was ineligible to register as a candidate due to his ownership of shares in a media firm.

Thailand’s prime ministerial candidate Pita Limjaroenrat will be investigated over whether he is eligible to run in last month’s election, a senior official said, in another setback as he struggles to win support for his premiership.

Pita, the 42-year-old leader of the progressive Move Forward Party whose election victory shocked Thailand’s military-backed establishment, has faced a series of accusations from rivals, including three sacked for late submissions, and four expelled against the party.

But Pita is by no means clear, with Thailand’s election commission investigating whether he knowingly disqualified himself from registering as a parliamentary candidate because of his ownership of shares in a media firm, which is prohibited under election rules.

Peeta said he inherited shares in the ITV television station, which has been off the air since 2007, from his father. He said the shares in Farm ITV have since been transferred.

The candidate has denied any wrongdoing and the party has said it is not concerned about the allegations.

He faces disqualification, up to 10 years in prison and a 20-year ban from politics if found guilty.

“There is sufficient information and evidence to further investigate whether Mr Pita is eligible to run,” Election Commission chairman Ittiporn Boonprakong told AFP news agency.

The Election Commission has constituted an inquiry committee for further investigation.

The opposition Move Forward and Pheu Thai parties have pushed the military-allied conservative opposition to reject nearly nine years of military-led or backed government since a 2014 coup.

They have formed a coalition with six smaller parties, but Peter Bid is expected to face resistance in a conservative-leaning Senate appointed under the army to become prime minister and form a government. A bicameral vote on the prime minister is expected by August, with weeks of uncertainty.

Move Forward’s anti-establishment agenda has put the group at odds with some powerful, conservative business interests and institutions.

The party won huge support among young people and in the capital Bangkok with a platform of institutional change, including reducing the military’s political role, removing the monopoly and reviewing a controversial law against insulting the monarchy.

Asked about the challenges against Move Forward, its secretary-general Chaitawat Tulathan said on Monday that the voice of the people will be protected.

He said in a press conference that the Election Commission may take action against Peter in the future.

“The team is confident that there is insufficient evidence to make the allegations.”

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