Bangkok (AFP) – We achieved a stunning electoral victory As they together captured a majority of seats in the House of Representatives, Thailand’s two largest opposition parties on Monday began planning for the next stage. In their attempt to replace the military-dominated government.
Monday’s headliner was 42-year-old businessman Pita Limjarronrat, who drove his Move Forward party to first place, beating most expectations. It overtook its opposition partner, Pheu Thai Party, which had been favored to lead the opinion polls.
Pheu Thai faltered despite the star power of Paetongtarn Shinawatra, daughter of Thaksin Shinawatra, The populist former prime minister who was overthrown in a military coup in 2006 is the driving force behind the party.
“The sweeping electoral victory of the Move Forward and Pheu Thai movements is a critical sign that voters want a system of government in which the people, not the military, decide their future,” said Terrell Haberkorn, a professor of Thai studies at the University of Wisconsin.
“Voters want a Thailand with free speech, without conscription, and where people’s votes are valued, not something that is silenced or bought,” she said.
On Monday, Pita said it had held talks with five other parties about forming a coalition government. It would have 309 seats in the House of Representatives in total, providing more stability than the 292-seat partnership with Pheu Thai as sole ally. Parliament chooses a new prime minister in July, so it has about two months to strike a deal.
Thailand has been led for the past nine years by former army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha who seized power in a 2014 military coup and returned to the post of prime minister after a 2019 election. He ran for re-election on Sunday, but bears responsibility for a slowing economy, a botched response to the coronavirus pandemic and thwarted reforms. Democracy – a sore point especially with young voters.
“The sentiment of the times has changed and it’s true,” Pita said Monday. “Today is a new day and I hope it will be full of sunshine of hope going forward.”
When it became clear earlier that his party was taking the lead, he tweeted that he was ready to make a difference as the country’s 30th prime minister. Whether you agree with me or not, I will be your prime minister. Whether you voted for me or not, I will serve you.”
Move Forward and Pheu Thai are aligned in their opposition to the military’s frequent interference in politics, demonstrated by more than a dozen coups it has staged since 1932, when Thailand became a constitutional monarchy, most recently in 2006 and 2014.
Both parties also support reforming some aspects of the monarchy, a position that infuriates the conservative royal establishment, which regards the institution as sacrosanct. Because Move Forward has been more outspoken on the subject, it is seen as extreme in the context of mainstream Thai politics.
With nearly all votes counted Monday, Move Forward captured a projected 151 House seats by winning more than 24% of the popular vote for the 400 constituency seats, and more than 36% of the vote for the 100 seats earmarked for proportional representation.
Pheu Thai came second with a combined total of 141 seats expected.
Prayuth’s United Thai Nation Party is fifth in constituency votes and third in party preferences tally, with a total of 36 projected seats.
Although the numbers put Pita in a favorable position to become the next prime minister, he faces a difficult road.
The candidates are blocking constitutional rules crafted by the military government to restrict political parties with populist appeals from taking root and overturning the long-entrenched conservative order.
The prime minister is elected by a joint session of 500 newly elected members of the assembly and 250 members of the upper house, appointed by the military. The winner must receive at least 376 votes.
The Senate, which is a staunch defender of the monarchy along with the military and courts, voted unanimously in favor of Prayuth in 2019, enabling him to overtake first-place Pheu Thai and form a coalition government.
There is a strong possibility that PETA will be seen as too radical by the partner parties, and they will have to look for a more moderate candidate.
Paetongtarn from Pheu Thai is the most popular choice in its party base. But her ties to her father Thaksin, with whom the military has not reconciled since his overthrow in 2006, will make it difficult to win any support from the Senate. One of the other prime ministerial candidates, real estate tycoon Sritha Thavisin, would stand a better chance in this case.
There are also fears that conservative elements in Thai politics may once again use what critics see as dirty tricks to seize power. Since Thaksin’s fall, they have repeatedly turned to the courts and so-called independent state agencies such as the Election Commission to repeatedly resort to controversial legal rulings to paralyze or drown out political threats from opponents. Such efforts are likely to spark strong street protests.
Is the coalition shape proposed by PETA, with 309 seats, stable enough? In a democratic world, it is the most stable. But in a world of semi-dictatorship with the Senate as an important variable, moving forward must raise the voices of the Senate,” said Benqiu Lungaramsri, a professor of anthropology at Chiang Mai University.
We have to wait and see if the tyrants will dare to use their illegitimate powers that go against the will of the people. She said (asterisk) If they do that, it just creates a condition for people to get back on the streets.
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