Thailand election: Opposition parties seek coalition talks

World Monday 15/May/2023 15:24 PM
By: DW
Thailand election: Opposition parties seek coalition talks

Bangkok: Preliminary results in Thailand's general election on Sunday, have the country's opposition parties — the Move Forward Party (MFP) and the Pheu Thai party — as clear victors.

"It is now clear that Move Forward Party has received overwhelming support from the people around the country," party Pita Limjaroenrat said on Twitter.

Pita later told reporters he was ready to be prime minister and that he would seek to build a coalition with five other parties including Pheu Thai.

The pro-democracy leader also announced that he will ensure a "comprehensive, transparent discussion" on Thailand's lese majeste law — a controversial law which imposes lengthy prison sentences on those who criticize the monarchy.

What are the latest results in the Thai election?
With 99% of votes counted, data from the Election Commission showed that MFP had 113 constituency seats of the 400 seats where MPs are elected across the country.

The Pheu Thai Party led by Paetongtarn Shinawatra — the daughter of former premier Thaksin Shinawatra — has 112 seats.

Both opposition parties are anti-military parties and the Senate comprises members who favor the military.

The national election is set to unseat the ruling conservative military-backed government of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha after almost a decade. Prayuth's United Thai Nation Party has 23 constituency seats.

But who heads the next government won't be decided by Sunday's vote alone. The prime minister will be selected in July in a joint session of the House and the 250-seat Senate, which was appointed by the junta.

What you need to know about the candidates
After casting her ballot in Bangkok, Shinawatra showed no signs of nerves. "Today is going to be a good day. I have very positive energy about it," the 36-year-old told reporters.

The progressive Move Forward Party, led by 42-year-old Pita, made strong gains especially among younger voters.

Prayuth was running for re-election with his newly formed conservative United Thai Nation Party. As one of those involved in Thailand's 2014 military coup, he became prime minister after a controversial 2019 election.

Prawit Wongsuwan, who leads the Palang Pracharath Party, was also one of the chief architects of the 2014 coup. He was a close ally of Prayuth, serving as his deputy prime minister, until they fell out.

About 52 million people were eligible to vote in the elections to choose between progressive opposition parties and the incumbent government led by Prayuth.

Voters could cast their ballots at around 95,000 polling stations set up across the country.

It was the first election being held since youth-led pro-democracy protests broke out in 2020.

In the 2019 elections, Pheu Thai won most seats but its military-backed nemesis, the Palang Pracharath Party, entered into a coalition with Prayuth as prime minister.

The Senate will jointly decide the fate of the country which has seen dozens of coups in the last century and witnessed a series of street protests.

Analysts keen on the speed and method of coalition building
Political analysts opine that the election results indicate a clear rejection of a decade old military rule.

"Businesses are looking for a smooth political transition, supported by policy reforms that improve the ease of doing business...and reducing corruption," Jay Harriman, a senior director at the Bower Group Asia, a political risk consultancy firm, told Reuters news agency.

However, all eyes are now set on the speed and method of forming the coalition.

Susannah Patton, author and director of the Southeast Asia Programme at Lowy Institute told Reuters that the results will make the coalition building process "difficult, as much of its agenda, like the reform of the lese majeste law, is unacceptable to the conservative forces who dominate the Thai senate."

Until the coalition risks are resolved the "baht could remain volatile," said analyst Vijay Vikram Kannan.

Vishnu Varathan, the head of economics and strategy at the Mizuho Bank said that the absence of "super-majority" for the MFP's could "challenge the ability to pass bulls." However, he added that this could be a "positive change for political stability."