With nearly all the votes counted, Thailand’s opposition parties have delivered a stunning blow to the military-backed incumbent government. The liberal Move Forward Party have taken the lead, followed by the populist Pheu Thai Party, amid murmurings of a coalition. This would end nearly 10 years of military-backed rule in the kingdom.
Yesterdays election is the first time a Thaksin Shinawatra-backed party (formerly Thai Rak Thai, now Pheu Thai) has not won the highest number of primary votes in the past 5 elections.
However, in order to form the next government and choose their PM, the parties will need the backing of the Senate, many of whom were appointed by the military government. Traditionally the Senate has voted in favour of the junta government, and its members get to decide on who will be the country’s next PM.
But they will also need to heed the mandate from yesterday’s vote in order to avoid civil unrest.
Preliminary, unofficial vote count from Thai PBS
The Move Forward Party’s pledge to amend Thailand’s strict lèse-majesté law could prove a stumbling block to party leader Pita Limjaroenrat becoming PM, with the Senate firmly against any such reform.
Move Forward’s stunning performance at the ballot box was due primarily to a wave of support among Thailand’s disenfranchised youth. The party was closely followed by Pheu Thai, led by Paetongtarn Shinawatra, daughter of former PM, Thaksin Shinawatra, currently in exile.
Both parties are set to take more than 3 times the number of seats of the military-backed Palang Pracharat and United Thai Nation parties. A coalition of the Move Forward, Pheu Thai and Pracharat parties already has a big majority (250 MPs plus 1) to form the next government.
Meanwhile, 42 year old Pita hailed what he described as a “sensational” result, vowing to remain true to the party’s values when forming Thailand’s next government.
“It will be anti-dictator-backed, military-backed parties, for sure. It’s safe to assume that minority government is no longer possible here in Thailand.”
Paetongtarn Thaksin, whose Pheu Thai Party had been expected to win the election, has congratulated Move Forward, but would not be drawn on the possibility of a coalition government, saying it was too soon to discuss such matters.
Meanwhile, there was no denying the facts for Prayut Chan-o-cha, who has served as PM since he led a 2014 coup that ousted the democratically-elected government of Yingluck Shinawatra, sister of Thaksin.
Yesterday, as he quietly left his party’s headquarters, he told reporters he respected the results of the election.
“I hope the country will be peaceful and prosper. I respect democracy and the election. Thank you.”
It may take weeks for all the stakeholders to negotiate a new government for Thailand.
SOURCE: Reuters | Thai PBS