Thailand’s opposition parties win, but don’t know if they can govern
Opposition parties made clear gains in Thailand’s election, but it was not immediately clear Sunday night whether they could govern. After amending the electoral law, they should win many more seats than the parties that support the military council.
During the course of the evening, it became clear that the progressive party “Move It Forward” led by Peta Limjaronrat, 42, of Harvard University, would turn a dizzying profit. According to the first results, the party may get 32 out of 33 seats in Bangkok and could become the largest party in Thailand.
The pro-democracy (literally: for the Thais) Pheu Thai Party aimed to win no fewer than 310 out of the 500 parliamentary seats. It probably won’t work. The campaign was led by Paetongtarn Shinawatra, the youngest daughter of party founder and telecoms billionaire Thaksin Shinawatra.
The party has been in power twice before. The founder, Thaksin Shinawatra, was elected prime minister in 2001, and his sister, Yingluck, in 2011. Both have been deposed by the military. Thaksin had to leave the field in 2006 and Yingluck was removed from office after the 2014 coup. The brother and sister live in self-imposed exile in Dubai.
She wants to advance, especially popular among young people, the most radical democratic reform, based on Western principles. It has plans to drastically reduce the military and also wants to reduce the influence of the royal family, which is closely linked to the military. Winning will raise the hopes of the fans.
And while the results were still emerging, the first contacts to form the government had already been made. Pita Limjarunrat indicated again in the evening that he wanted to form a coalition with Phu Tai of Shinawatra. But although the two parties won more than half of the seats at least, according to preliminary results, this is not enough under the current rules to provide a prime minister and thus form a government.
Since the change of law introduced by the military regime, the prime minister is elected by 500 deputies and 250 senators. But these senators are appointed by the military. This is why opposition parties need at least 376 parliamentary seats to elect a prime minister. Parties loyal to the military council need only 126 votes in the House of Representatives.
The two main pro-junta parties, the Palang Pracharat Party (PPP) and the United Thai Nation Party (UTN), finished fourth and fifth according to preliminary results. Their supporters are formed by the conservative elite, whose interests are tied to the royal family and the army.
Despite the 37-degree heat, more than eighty percent of the 52 million Thai voters went to the polls. People filled out two ballot papers. They voted for a district seat and a national party. Four hundred of the five hundred seats in the House of Representatives are elected through the constituency system. The remaining 100 is proportionally filled by the parties.
The Election Commission must certify the final results within sixty days.
Read also The Thai opposition hopes for a turnaround
A version of this article also appeared in the May 15, 2023 Journal.
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