Thailand’s Reformist Opposition Emerges Victorious in General Election, Challenging Military-Backed Rule

Progressive Move Forward Party (MFP) and Pheu Thai Party Secure Majority of Seats, but Challenges Await in Forming Government

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A woman casts her vote during a general election at a polling station in Bangkok, Thailand, Sunday, May 14, 2023. (Xinhua/Rachen Sageamsak)

In a groundbreaking election result, Thailand’s reformist opposition parties have secured the most seats and garnered the largest share of the popular vote, signaling a strong rejection of the military-backed parties that have governed the country for almost a decade. The progressive Move Forward Party (MFP) and the populist Pheu Thai Party have emerged as the primary victors, projected to win approximately 286 seats in the 500-member House of Representatives, according to nearly finalized vote counts on Monday.

Despite their electoral success, uncertainties loom over the formation of the next government due to the skewed parliamentary rules that grant 250 members of a military-appointed Senate the power to vote on the prime minister. Consequently, the MFP and Pheu Thai will need the support of smaller parties to establish a new administration, raising questions about the feasibility of their victory leading to substantial policy changes.

The most remarkable outcome of Sunday’s election was the triumph of the MFP, a progressive youth-led party participating in general elections for the first time. The party’s bold platform advocating for reform of the monarchy and a reduction in military influence by rewriting the constitution and ending conscription resonated with voters. Preliminary results, with 99 percent of votes counted, showed the MFP poised to secure the largest share of the lower-house with a total of 147 seats. These figures include 112 directly elected seats and 35 party-list seats allocated proportionally.

Analysts hailed the MFP’s performance as “outstanding,” as pre-election surveys had anticipated Pheu Thai, linked to the influential Shinawatra family and a consistent winner since 2001, to claim the majority. Nevertheless, Pheu Thai still garnered a respectable total of 138 seats, with 112 directly elected and 27 from the party-list.

Conversely, the royalist-military parties faced a significant setback in the election. The United Thai Nation Party of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, who came to power through a coup in 2014, trailed in fifth place with 36 seats. Prayuth’s former party, the Palang Pracharath, secured approximately 40 seats, placing it fourth in the election results.

The election outcome reflects a shifting political landscape in Thailand, with voters demonstrating a desire for change and a departure from the established order. However, challenges lie ahead for the MFP and Pheu Thai as they navigate the complex process of forming a government, given the influence of the military-appointed Senate. The coming weeks will determine whether the progressive opposition can translate their electoral success into meaningful political reforms that reshape Thailand’s governance structure.

Sri Lanka Guardian

The Sri Lanka Guardian is an online web portal founded in August 2007 by a group of concerned Sri Lankan citizens including journalists, activists, academics and retired civil servants. We are independent and non-profit. Email: editor@slguardian.org

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