Thailand’s parliament met on Wednesday to vote for a prime minister for the second time in less than a week – a test for democracy in a nation where a powerful military and its royalist allies have often pushed back against democratic change.

The Move Forward Party, led by Pita Limjaroenrat, 42, is pushing for change in Thailand, and won the most votes in the May general election. But Mr. Pita cannot form a government unless he is elected prime minister by the Thai parliament. ,

He lost a preliminary vote last week. If Parliament fails to elect a leader again by the end of Wednesday, a third vote could take place as soon as Thursday.

Here’s what to know.

Mr Pita’s party has proposed ambitious policies to challenge Thailand’s powerful institutions such as the military and the monarchy. The party won 151 seats in parliament, the most of any party, and 10 more than Pheu Thai, the populist party founded by Thaksin Shinawatra, one of Thailand’s most famous politicians.

Mr. Pita’s party formed an eight-party coalition that nominated him as prime minister last week. He came up short in the first vote because the Senate is controlled by military-appointed legislators who opposed his candidacy and the Move Forward platform.

In other countries, yes. In Thailand in 2023, no.

Becoming prime minister requires a simple majority of the 500-seat House of Representatives and the 250-seat Senate.

But the rules governing senatorial appointments were drafted by the military junta that seized power from a democratically elected government in a 2014 coup. They effectively give senators veto power over prime ministerial nominees.

Last week, Mr. Pita won only 13 votes out of the 249 senators who voted for prime minister. Analysts say he is unlikely to do better on Wednesday.

Mr. Pita faces several challenges beyond getting the votes he needs.

On Wednesday morning, lawmakers met to discuss whether parliamentary rules allow a prime minister to run for a second vote after losing the first. Some have argued that the rules prohibit returning a failed motion; others say that this is a special situation that requires an exemption.

Separately on Wednesday morning, the Constitutional Court said it was suspending Mr. Pita from Parliament until a decision is made in a case involving his shares in a media company. Investigators are trying to determine whether Mr. Pita properly disclosed the shares before running for office, as required by Thai law.

The court’s ruling forced Mr. Pita to leave the chamber on Wednesday, but it would not necessarily prevent his coalition from appointing him as prime minister for a second term.

Mr. Pita’s supporters said the investigation was the government’s attempt to unfairly derail his candidacy.

Mr Pita said that if it became clear that he could not win, his party would allow its coalition partner Pheu Thai to nominate its own candidate.

Pheu Thai is likely to nominate its own candidate, but is also likely to form an entirely new coalition that is more palatable to conservative lawmakers who can’t stomach Mr. Pita and Move Forward.

Pheu Thai’s candidate would likely be Srettha Thavisin, 60, a property mogul with little political experience.

However, as prime minister he would immediately present a sharp contrast to the current, former general Prayuth Chan-ocha, who led the military coup of 2014.

A more remote, but not impossible, scenario is that Pheu Thai allows a conservative establishment party to nominate a candidate as a condition of joining a new coalition. That candidate could be General Prawit Wongsuwan, 77, deputy prime minister in the current government.

Many would see a victory for Mr Srettha as a triumph for the democratic process in Thailand, a country with a long history of mass protests and military coups. Some foreign investors would also see it as a potential boost for a sluggish, coronavirus-hit economy.

But many of Move Forward’s progressive supporters would be angry if their party was blocked from forming a government after winning the most votes in the May election. There was heavy security around the National Assembly in Bangkok on Wednesday morning, and at least two demonstrations were planned for later in the day.

The size of the protests over the coming days or weeks will likely depend on who becomes prime minister. When it comes to Mr. Srettha, demonstrations could be sporadic and modest. If it is General Prawit or another military figure, they could be sustained and intense.

Most analysts agree that Mr. Pita’s chances remain weak.

Muktita Suharton contributed reporting.

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