Future Forward Party leader blocked from joining House

Future Forward Party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit is shown in this March 25, 2019, file photo. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

Bangkok (AP) — A court on Thursday blocked the leader of a new political party from taking his seat in Parliament while it determines whether he violated election rules. The ruling against Future Forward Party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit is likely to increase political tensions in the nation.

The Constitutional Court accepted the case against Thanathorn on the recommendation of the state Election Commission, which accused him of breaking election law by holding shares in a media company. The court barred him from taking his seat until it renders a verdict.

Thanathorn has said he is not guilty of breaching the rule because the shares he held were transferred before he contested the election. However, the court said it was suspending him because he could be guilty as charged, which would be an “obstruction to the important work to the meetings in the House of Representatives.”

If found guilty, he could be disqualified from office and barred from politics. The court said he would be given 15 days to submit clarifications in the case against him.

Future Forward finished third in the March elections and aligned itself with parties seeking to stop the ruling junta’s allies from forming a new government. Thanathorn has said his party would support a bid for power by another anti-military party, Pheu Thai, which won the most seats in the lower house. Last week, he said his party could lead a majority coalition and he was also ready to be prime minister.

Speaking at the party headquarters after the court’s decision, Thanathorn said “this is not the time for hopelessness but it is the time to expose the evils of dictatorships. What has happened is an injustice. I want to call on everyone who still loves justice to proudly stand together and fight to restore justice to Thai society.”