Pro-Military Party Confirmed to Win Most Votes in Thai Election

Phumtham Wechayacha, secretary-general of the Pheu Thai party, seated from second left, Sudarat Keyuraphan, a leader of the Pheu Thai party, Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, leader of the Future Forward party, Viroj Pao-in, a Pheu Thai party leader, and other members of the anti-junta alliance prepare to leave a news conference in Bangkok, Thailand, on Wednesday, March 27, 2019. Seven political parties opposed to Thailand’s ruling junta said they had the numbers to form a majority coalition following Sunday’s general election, intensifying a tussle for power with a pro-military bloc. Photographer: Nicolas Axelrod/Bloomberg
By Bloomberg
28 Mar 2019 0

Thailand’s pro-military party won the most votes in Sunday’s election, authorities confirmed on Thursday, bolstering its claim to legitimacy as it competes with an anti-junta alliance to form a government.

The pro-junta Palang Pracharath party won 8.4 million votes, while the Pheu Thai party linked to exiled former premier Thaksin Shinawatra came in second with 7.9 million votes, the Election Commission said. Pheu Thai said Wednesday it formed a seven-party coalition that unofficially would have 255 seats in the 500-member lower house, a claim rejected by the military’s proxies.

The power struggle could drag on for weeks or months, as the Election Commission has said it has until May 9 — after the coronation ceremony of King Maha Vajiralongkorn — to issue final results before a vote occurs in parliament. The Election Commission is also investigating complaints that could result in changes to seat allocations.

The early results suggest that any coalition that emerges is likely to be weak and unstable, making it difficult to pass legislation. Both larger groups would need to rely on a range of smaller regional parties to push through key policies.

The prime minister will be selected in a joint vote of the lower house and a 250-strong junta-appointed Senate that’s expected to back junta chief and current prime minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha.

Pheu Thai only contested about about two-thirds of constituencies up for grabs after one of its allied parties was banned in the run-up to the election. Palang Pracharath won fewer constituencies but benefited from having candidates across Thailand, allowing it to gain more votes.

“We’re in talks with several parties, and we’ll form a coalition as big as we can,” Uttama Savanayana, who leads the pro-junta party, told reporters on Wednesday. “We believe that popular vote reflects what people want.”

Sudarat Keyuraphan, a prime ministerial candidate for Pheu Thai, said at an earlier briefing that it would form a government “because that’s how people voted.”

“You can’t expect a gold medal when you came in second place,” she later wrote on her Facebook page. DM