Thailand election 2023
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Leaders of seven parties opposed to military rule announce a “democratic front” in Bangkok on March 27. Photo: Reuters

Thailand election: can seven-party ‘democratic front’ block path to power for junta proxies and Prayuth Chan-ocha?

  • Seven parties led by Pheu Thai, the party projected to have won the most seats, say the pro-junta camp should stand aside
  • The parties do not yet know the exact number of seats they have won as the final result can only be confirmed after the king’s coronation in May
Seven Thai parties forming a “democratic front” opposed to military rule have secured a combined majority of the 500 seats contested in the weekend’s election and say they are ready to form a coalition despite proxies of junta chief Prayuth Chan-ocha insisting they are entitled to govern.

The pro-democrat camp’s announcement on Wednesday added a further twist to the confusion following Sunday’s voting.

Seven parties led by Pheu Thai, the party projected to have won the most seats, say the pro-junta camp should stand aside because it does not have a parliamentary majority.

Explained: Thailand’s politics and monarchy

Pheu Thai leader Sudarat Keyuraphan described the election as “questionable” but said the coalition would work for “the country’s benefit”.

“Parties in the democratic front gained the most trust from the people,” she said. “Although right now numbers are still moving, we’re certain we will have at least 255 seats among ourselves. We declare that the democratic front who opposes military rule commands the majority in the House.

“We are trying to fulfil the people’s expectations as best we can. We want to support the constructive political culture even though the election is difficult because the rules support the junta’s prolonging of power. There have been a lot of vote buying, intervention of state influence and the counting of the votes is abnormal. It was a questionable election.”

Sudarat also accused Pheu Thai’s opponents of trying to limit the party’s influence and reduce its number of seats by bringing complaints to the Election Commission (EC) before the final tallies are announced.

“What we are facing next is an attempt to lessen the votes on our side through the assignment of the red or yellow cards for the next two months until the results are endorsed,” she said.

“We have kept our raw voting results to prevent any change or cheating. There will also be attempts to lure MPs using benefits or positions. I hope there will be those who want to see the country’s benefit and stick to the democratic ideology and cooperate with us more.”

She added: “If we don’t join together now, our children will inherit this because it is an institutional coup in 2019 after the military coup in 2014.”

Stand-off as military-backed Palang Pracharat and Shinawatra proxy Pheu Thai both claim victory

Apart from Pheu Thai, aligned with the former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, the other parties in the “democratic front” include Future Forward, Seri Ruam Thai and other Pheu Thai-linked regional parties in Prachachart, Pheu Chat and Palangchon. The New Economy party, led by former deputy prime minister Mingkwan Saengsuwan, has also pledged support but was not represented at Wednesday’s announcement.

Pheu Thai is projected to have won 137 seats, while Future Forward, a youth-centric party formed last year, is on course for 80 seats.

Future Forward leader Thanathorn Jungrungreangkit. Photo: AFP
Future Forward leader Thanathorn Jungrungreangkit said: “The current political situation is not beneficial to the country in the long-run. We think it is extremely necessary to materialise the mandate of the majority of people.

“We will join with other parties to prevent the junta’s extension of power as much as we can. It might be difficult and we will have to face the Senate, but we’ll work together. We invite other parties to join and create a democratic government, even as an opposition.

“We maintain that the PM must come from the party with the highest voting scores and the Future Forward supports Sudarat as she is the most suitable candidate.

“An attempt to create a minority government, through the Senate endorsement, would only lead to social unrest.”

Thailand’s election was ‘heavily tilted’ towards pro-junta Palang Pracharat party, Asian election monitor says

The parties do not yet know the exact number of seats they have won as election rules stipulate the final result can only be confirmed after the May 4-6 coronation of King Maha Vajiralongkorn. The junta, which has been in power since the 2014 coup, drafted that rule claiming it would prevent negotiations overshadowing the once-in-a-generation coronation.

However, the fallout from the election suggests the lead-up to the coronation will be more chaotic than the junta had hoped.

The leaders of the parties in the “democratic front” said they would seek greater clarity and transparency from the EC. Wan Muhamad Noor Matha, a former house speaker and leader of Prachachart, said results should be made public sooner.

“The EC should not wait until May 9 to announce ... voting results,” he said. “What is the reason? The raw vote scores must be made available to the parties and the people. Now the public is suspicious that you hold them to change them to benefit the particular side.”

Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha. Photo: AP

The pro-junta Palang Pracharat party still aims to make Prayuth – the leader of the 2014 coup – a democratically elected prime minister. It has insisted it should be given the first opportunity to form government because it is projected to have the largest share of the popular vote. It is projected to win around 119 seats. It contested all 350 constituency seats whereas Pheu Thai contested 250 seats.

Palang Pracharat could seek to form a coalition with the Bhumjaithai party. However, Bhumjaithai registrar Supachai Jaisamut has reportedly said the party will wait for the official results before making any decisions.

Princess to Prayuth: who’s who in Thai election’s Game of Thrones

The pro-junta party has one key advantage: the 250-seat military-appointed senate. It therefore requires support of just 126 MPs to obtain the majority in the bicameral parliament that would allow Prayuth to remain prime minister.

Prajak Kongkirati, a Thammasat University political science lecturer, wrote on Twitter: “On the issue of the party that wins more popular votes gaining fewer seats, this is a result of the design of the twisted election rules by the constitutional drafters. No country in the world adopts this system. There is no one to blame. The people in power design the rules without the people’s participation.”

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Anti-military parties in ‘democratic front’