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Thai Elections Standoff

2 April 2019

The long delayed general election in Thailand on 24 March has failed to produce any clarity let alone heal the divisions in Thai society. Amid widespread allegations of electoral fraud, the provisional results show that the military-backed Palang Pracharat party won the popular vote, while the Thaksin Shinawatra-backed Pheu Thai won the most seats. Both sides claim they have the right to form the next government after five years of military rule. 

The third-biggest party was the new Future Forward party, which won 80 seats although just formed 12 months ago. It won strong support from young people. Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, leader of Future Forward and a critic of the junta, suggested he could lead a broad pro-democracy coalition but said his preference was for Sudarat Keyuraphan, the Pheu Thai leader, to become prime minister. 

The election commission has only released results for 95 per cent of the constituency seats, with the full results to be released after the May 4-6 coronation of King Maha Vajiralongkorn. Turnout was close to 75% for the 500-seat parliament which comprises 350 constituency wards and 150 party list seats. Party list figures were not released by the election commission.

Of the constituency seats, Pheu Thai was shown to have captured 137 seats compared to Palang Pracharat’s 97 seats. But under a complex election system that mixes first-past-the-post and proportional representation formats, Palang Pracharat is set to win a sizeable number of party list seats while Pheu Thai is projected to win none. The Bangkok Post projects Pheu Thai will ultimately end up with 135 seats, Palang Pracharat with 119 seats, and the Future Forward Party with 80 seats.

As it stands, it is Prayuth’s party that is within a whisker of reaching a crucial 126-seat threshold in the 500-seat lower house, enabling the junta chief to remain as prime minister. Prayuth will need the support of 376 members in the bicameral 750-seat National Assembly but the 250 senators are all junta appointees and will back his prime ministerial bid.

The exiled Thaksin Shinawatra criticised the junta for ‘manipulating’ the vote and warned that they would always find a way to stay in power.

The EU welcomed the holding of the elections, urged an investigation into irregularities and looked forward to working with the new government.