Law hamstrings watchdog’s actions
The Election Commission is expected to rule on whether Move Forward Party (MFP) leader, Pita Limjaroenrat, was eligible to run in the election, due to his ownership of shares in a media company.
A rival lawmaker said the shares were not declared to the authorities before he was sworn in as an MP in the 2019 election.
A source said the commission is in the middle of examining a petition filed by Ruangkrai Leekitwattana, a Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) MP, who reported Mr Pita to the poll agency for failing to declare his ownership of 42,000 shares in iTV, a registered media company, to the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) before he took office as an MP in 2019. The shares are valued at 5 baht apiece.
The petition also raised the question whether the registration of MFP’s MP candidates in all 400 constituencies could also be declared invalid if Mr Pita, who approved their registrations, is disqualified over the iTV shareholding issue.
Mr Pita previously said he does not own the shares, as he inherited them from his father. The shares were listed under his name as he was appointed the executor of his late father’s estate. He had explained the matter to the poll body before he was sworn in.
The law prohibits shareholders in media firms from becoming MPs.
Mr Ruangkrai said that even though iTV has ceased operations, it retains its function as a media company.
The EC source said the commission could not invoke the organic law on the election of MPs in Mr Pita’s case, as section 61 of the law says the EC could only remove an individual as an MP candidate before an election ends.
Now the election has concluded, the EC has no legal basis to remove a candidate or MP-elect, according to the source.
Also, section 82 of the constitution says the EC could strip anyone of their status as MP only after their case has been referred to the Constitutional Court for a ruling.
Since Mr Pita has not been officially endorsed as an MP following the latest election, the commission must wait until after it has confirmed Mr Pita before it can apply the section, the source.
Also on Sunday, Mr Ruangkrai said he will submit additional documents to support his report on Wednesday, in the hope of making the allegations watertight.
He said two sets of documents will be presented to the EC — the list of iTV shareholders since 2006 and flowcharts showing iTV’s earnings from 2006 till last year. According to Mr Ruangkrai, Mr Pita had acquired the shares in question in 2008.
“With the additional evidence, the EC should be able to pick up the pace of its investigation and refer the Pita case to the court,” he said.