Thailand swings toward democracy after landslide election victory

Voters gathered at a polling station in Bangkok's Phra Khanong district on 14 May to watch the vote count. Source: Prachatai

This edited article was originally published by Prachatai, an independent news site in Thailand, and an edited version is republished by Global Voices under a content-sharing agreement.

In Sunday’s general election, the former opposition parties defeated the military-backed parties that have ruled Thailand since the 2014 coup and demonstrated their readiness to form a new government.

With more than 99 percent of votes counted, the unofficial results from the Election Commission reported that the progressive Move Forward Party gained the largest number of lower house seats with 152. The figure includes 113 constituency MPs and 39 party-list MPs.

Following a close second is the populist Pheu Thai Party, led by Paetongtarn Shinawatra, daughter of former PM Thaksin Shinawatra, with 141 seats — 112 constituency MPs and 29 party-list MPs. These two parties were the two biggest opposition parties in the previous government and now hold a combined total of 293 out of 500 lower house seats.

The Bhumjaithai Party, the pioneer of the campaign to decriminalize cannabis, came in third place with 70 seats, while Prawit Wongsuwan’s Palang Pracharath Party and Prayut Chan-o-cha’s United Thai Nation Party, both backed by the military group that seized power in the 2014 coup, came fourth and fifth with 41 and 36 seats respectively.

On 15 May 2023, Pita Limjaroenrat, the Move Forward Party’s leader and PM candidate, declared victory, confirming the party’s readiness to be the leader in forming a new government.

I declare that the Move Forward Party is ready to be the leader in forming the next government. I am ready to be the PM of all Thais, and ready to listen to different opinions to make me a better PM. We are ready to honour and continue the past fight of all sides for democracy. We are ready to restore faith in the democratic system and in the parliamentary system.

Pita said he invited the Pheu Thai Party and other parties — the Prachachat Party, the Thai Sang Thai Party, and the Thai Liberal (Seree Ruam Thai) Party, to form a coalition. He said he is awaiting a response from the Fair Party, believing that the total number of seats will be sufficient to form a majority government. He added that all sides need to respect the outcome.

Pitipong Temcharoen, leader of the Fair Party, tweeted that he is pleased to join the government of the Move Forward Party and support Pita to be the next PM in order to build a country built on democracy.

On the same day, the Pheu Thai Party released a statement congratulating the Move Forward Party on its victory and accepting the Move Forward Party’s invitation to join the new government.

The coalition led by the Move Forward Party now holds a total of 310 seats. However, due to convoluted constitutional rules which the military government established in 2017, the 250 members of the military-appointed Senate are allowed to vote for the PM. In order to gather support from 376 members of both houses, i.e., half of the 750 members in total plus one, the coalition will require the backing of 66 senators if it cannot gather more support from the lower house.

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