Thailand: Opposition wins election against military-aligned government

Thailand: Opposition wins election against military-aligned government

The government in Thailand, which is close to the military, clearly lost the elections and is far behind the opposition. But it is far from clear whether the election winner of the Move Forward party, Pita Limjaroenrat, will actually become the new head of government.

Thailand’s two main opposition parties have clinched a clear victory in the general election after nearly a decade of military-backed governments. After counting the votes in 99 percent of the polling stations, the opposition Move Forward Party (MFP) was ahead with 14 million votes, followed by the also opposition Pheu Thai Party (PTP) with 10.6 million votes. The United Thai Nation (UTN) party of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha, who is supported by the army, was far behind in third place with around 4.6 million votes.

MFP leader Pita Limjaroenrat wants to become head of government in Thailand

Due to the political system in Thailand, however, Prayut could stay in power even after a clear defeat: According to the constitution adopted in 2017 under the then ruling military junta, the head of government in Thailand is not only elected by the 500 MPs, but also by the 250 from the military certain senators.

Head of government will be anyone who has a total of at least 376 votes – so only 125 votes from the House of Representatives are likely to be enough for a candidate close to the military. Even after the last election in 2019, the support of the senators was crucial for the coalition under Prayut.

According to a forecast by the Thai Electoral Commission published early Monday morning (local time), the MFP, like the PTP, will win 112 parliamentary seats by direct mandate. 100 seats will be distributed according to proportional representation, but the official figures on the allocation of seats are not due to be published for several weeks.

MFP leader Limjaroenrat said after the partial results were released that his party had “closed the door” on any minority party government backed by the army. An alliance with the PTP is “definitely likely”.

Opposition popular with younger voters

The leading MFP in the partial results is particularly popular with supporters of the youth-heavy pro-democracy protests that have been taking place in the capital Bangkok since 2020, calling for reform of the Thai monarchy.

The top candidate of the opposition PTP, Paetongtarn Shinawatra, who is in second place according to the first figures, is the daughter of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in 2006 and now lives in exile. The PTP has its strongholds in rural north-east Thailand, where many people are still grateful for the measures introduced under Thaksin’s government to support vulnerable citizens.

Prayut’s ex-ally Prawit Wongsuwan, who ran for the army-backed Palang Pracharath (PPRP) in the election, is considered a potential kingmaker.

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Sunday’s general election, with a total of around 52 million eligible voters, was the first nationwide election since pro-democracy protests began in 2020. It has become a generational divide between the pro-democracy opposition, supported by young and rural voters, and the conservative, with the military allied royalist establishment embodied by Prayut and his UTN.

Since the end of the absolute monarchy in 1932, there have been twelve successful coups in Thailand. Observers believe that military intervention is possible if the current opposition parties form a government. In addition, rumors had recently spread in the country that the opposition MFP could be dissolved by a court order – like its predecessor party FFP after its surprisingly good election results in 2019.

Source: Stern

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