April 22, 2024

Thai voters have rejected the military-backed government as two opposition parties appear to be set for coalition talks.

Initial results show the Move Forward and Pheu Thai parties surging ahead of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha.

The election has been described as a turning point for Thailand which has experienced military coups in its recent years.

Mr Prayuth led the last coup in 2014 and sought another term in office.

But he has faced strong election challenges from Move Forward and Pheu Thai which are two anti-military parties.

Move Forward is led by former tech executive Pita Limjaroenrat, while Paetongtarn Shinawatra – the daughter of former PM Thaksin Shinawatra – is the Pheu Thai candidate.

With 97% of the vote counted, a calculation by Reuters news agency based on data from the Election Commission suggested Move Forward would win the most seats followed by Pheu Thai in second place.

Mr Pita described the result as “sensational” and promised his party would remain opposed to military-backed parties when forming a government.

The party would seek talks with Pheu Thai and a coalition deal was “definitely on the cards”, Mr Pita told reporters.

Pheu Thai leader Paetongtarn Shinawatra congratulated Move Forward on their success and said “we can work together”.

“We are ready to talk to Move Forward, but we are waiting for the official result,” she added.

Pheu Thai's prime ministerial candidate Paetongtarn ShinawatraIMAGE SOURCE,REUTERS
Image caption,

Pheu Thai’s prime ministerial candidate Paetongtarn Shinawatra is the daughter of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra

Vote counting got underway after polls closed at 17:00 (10:00 GMT) on Sunday – nine hours after voting began at 95,000 polling stations across Thailand.

About 50 million people were expected to cast their ballots to elect 500 members of the lower house of parliament – and some two million people had voted early.

The Election Commission is not expected to officially confirm the final number of seats won by each party for several weeks.

But it marks a significant shift in public opinion in Thailand as voters of all ages appear to have been willing to take a chance on relatively untested and idealistic young politicians.

Back in 2014, Mr Prayuth, 69, seized power from the government of Mr Thaksin’s sister, Yingluck Shinawatra following months of turmoil.

Thailand held an election in 2019, but the results showed no clear party had won a majority.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ochaIMAGE SOURCE,REUTERS
Image caption,

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, the army general who led the last coup in 2014, sought re-election

Weeks later, a pro-military party formed the government and named Mr Prayuth as its PM candidate in a process that the opposition said was unfair.

The following year a controversial court ruling dissolved Future Forward, the previous iteration of Move Forward, which had performed strongly in the election thanks to the passionate support of younger voters.

That sparked off mass protests lasting six months which called for reform of the military and the monarchy.

Nearly 70 parties contested this election – including several large ones – and no one party has won an outright majority of the seats in the lower house.

But even if one party had won a majority, or had a majority coalition in place, the political system bequeathed by the military-drafted 2017 constitution, and a range of other extra-electoral authorities, could prevent it from taking office.

The constitution, written while Thailand was under military rule, created a 250-seat appointed senate, which gets to vote on the choice of the next PM and government.

As the senators were all appointed by the coup leaders they have always voted in favour of the current, military-aligned government, and never in favour of the opposition.

So technically any party without the senate’s backing would need a super-majority of 376 out of the 500 seats, an unobtainable target.



Credit: By Thomas Mackintosh

BBC News

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