Bangkok, Thailand – Thailand’s reformist opposition won the most seats and the largest share of the vote in the general election after voters adamantly rejected the military-backed party that has ruled the Southeast Asian nation for nearly a decade.
Nearly all votes were tallied on Monday, with progressives Advance Party (MFP) and the populist Pheu Thai Party were expected to win about 286 seats in the 500-seat lower house.
However, due to the distorted parliamentary rules that allow 250 military-appointed senators to vote for the prime minister, it is unclear whether the next government will be formed.
In other words, the MFP and the Pheu Thai Party need the support of smaller parties to form a new government.
The biggest winner in Sunday’s vote was the MFP, a progressive, youth-led party that reformed the monarchy by rewriting the constitution and abolishing conscription, a bold move to cut the military’s powers. It was the first general election with a platform.
Preliminary results posted on the Election Commission’s website showed the MFP would have the largest share of the House with 147 total seats at 99% of the votes counted. This figure includes 112 of the 400 directly elected seats and 35 of the 100 seats allocated to political parties on a proportional basis.
Analysts called the MFP’s results “outstanding” because pre-election polls had predicted it would be Pheu Thai with ties to billionaires. Shinawatra family And it will be dominated by parties that have won every election since 2001.
The results showed that Pheu Thai Party won 138 seats, including 112 directly elected seats and 27 seats from party lists.
On the other hand, the performance of the Royalist army was poor.
The Thai National Party, led by Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, who seized power as military commander in a 2014 coup, was fifth with 36 seats. His former political party, Paran Pracharat, was fourth with around 40 seats.
Third place went to Bhumjaithai, who spearheaded the marijuana legalization movement in Thailand. Bhumjaytai, a member of the current ruling coalition, was expected to win about 70 seats.
“The result is a very impressive victory for the Progressive Party,” said Titipol Pakdewanich, professor of political science at Ubon Ratchathani University in eastern Thailand.
“This is a big turning point for Thailand because it shows that most Thai people want change,” he told Al Jazeera. “This time, we are really witnessing the power of voters who fought hard for change.”
In fact, on Sunday’s election day, thousands of Thais, young and old, turned out to vote, and many in the capital Bangkok said they would vote for change. By noon, polling officials in the metropolitan area said more than half of voters had braved the sweltering heat to vote.
Among them was 60-year-old Mallika Sribunlun, who told Al Jazeera she was “thrilled” to vote this year. His entire family and most of his neighbors had already voted, he said. “I came to vote because I want better people to run the country,” she added.
Voting went smoothly across the country, with long, orderly lines from the beginning of the day in the northern city of Chiang Mai, the eastern resort city of Pattaya and the western tourist island of Phuket.
In all these regions, MFP swept the polls.
In Bangkok, he is poised to win all but one of the city’s 33 constituencies.
Chiang Mai, the second most populous province and long regarded as the home of the Pro-Thai faction, is expected to win seven of the 10 seats. In Pattaya, seven out of 10 seats are likely to be contested.
And in Phuket, he was expected to win all three seats up for re-election.
The atmosphere at the MFP’s campaign headquarters turned exciting as the results began rolling in late Sunday. “Before the election, I expected to win about 100 seats,” said 33-year-old engineer Phisit Claylot. “But the real-time updates I’m seeing today have exceeded my expectations.”
Party leader Pita Rimjaroenrat arrived at headquarters to cheer and thank supporters for the “sensational result”. Afterwards, he wrote on Twitter, “It has become clear that Move Forward has the tremendous trust of the people and the state.”
The MFP candidates rejoiced.
“I am surprised that the MFP will become the first party to form a government,” said Piyarat “Toto” Chongthep, who was elected in Bangkok’s Bangna district.
The 28-year-old activist spearheaded youth-led protests in 2020, breaking long-standing taboos calling for restraint of power. King Maha Vajiralongkorn.
“For the party, it’s beyond our imagination,” Piyarat, one of several protest leaders who ran for parliament under the MFP banner, told Al Jazeera. “I really can’t explain how I feel right now.”
Late Sunday at the Pheu Thai Party’s headquarters in the city, Petongtarn Shinawatra congratulated the MFP and said the party with the most votes should take the lead in forming the next government.
“We are ready to talk with Move Forward, but we are waiting for the official results,” she said.
“I’m happy for them,” she added. “We can work together.”
Prayuth, on the other hand, had a grumpy look on his face and said nothing.
The incumbent prime minister reportedly quietly walked away from the campaign headquarters after telling the media that he respects democracy.
The Electoral Commission now has 60 days to certify election results.
“Age of uncertainty”
Despite MFP’s strong performance, analysts say it is facing an uphill battle over the Bangkok governor’s office. That’s because the winning candidate would need 376 votes in the House and Senate to be elected. prime minister.
Political analyst Ken Mathis Rohatepanon told the Thai Enquirer that “at this point it is still unclear whether the Senate is willing to honor Move Forward’s mandate.”
The military-appointed parliament is leading to sweeping reforms to the monarchy and military by the MFP, including revisions to Thailand’s draconian lese majeste law.in vague terms Article 112 It carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison, and rights groups say the law has been used to punish political activism.
In the last election in 2019, the Senate voted unanimously for Prayuth, despite winning far fewer seats than the Pheu Thai Party. He then formed a coalition government of 19 different parties and was able to remain prime minister for four years.
If the Senate opposes the MFP, it will need the support of both the Pheu Thai Party and other smaller parties such as Bhumjaithai, led by incumbent Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul.
All of this means that it could be weeks before Thai voters find out who will lead the new government.
“Despite Move Forward winning the poll, Thailand is likely to remain in a long period of uncertainty,” Rohatepanon wrote.
Additional reports by Pakalat Jirenuwat from Bangkok, Vijitra Duangri from Pattaya and Kate Mayberry from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia