Thailand's Constitutional Court has ordered a temporary suspension of prime ministerial candidate Pita Limjaroenrat from parliament after accepting a case against him alleging he was unqualified to run in a May 14 election.
The court on Wednesday agreed to hear a case that centres on his ownership of shares in a now-defunct media company, prohibited under Thai law.
"It was commanded that the respondent must suspend his role from July 19, until the Constitutional Court has made its decision," the court said in a statement.
Pita, who was due to contest a parliamentary vote on the premiership on Wednesday, has argued his ownership of shares in a media company was not a violation of election rules.
He has 15 days to respond, the court said in a statement.
Doubts on Pita's second run
Lawmakers are forbidden from owning shares in media companies under Thailand's constitution, though the television station in question has not broadcast since 2007.
Pita, Harvard-educated and wealthy from a family-run agrifood business, has said the shares were inherited from his father.
Under Thai law, Pita remains eligible to stand as a candidate for prime minister but must leave the lower house and will be unable to vote.
"If you vote according to the voice of the people, your name will be engraved in this kingdom with great honour and pride," he said on Twitter in the morning, in a last-ditch call for support.
Few expect his party to have made up last week's shortfall, and lawmakers aligned with the military immediately forced a debate on whether the law allowed Pita to be considered a second time.
Thailand's senate is stacked with military appointees, with only 13 of 249 serving senators voting for Pita last week, and his only likely path to power is to successfully court many more members of that chamber.