Global Statistics

All countries
689,396,069
Confirmed
Updated on May 28, 2023 9:53 am
All countries
621,122,739
Recovered
Updated on May 28, 2023 9:53 am
All countries
6,883,567
Deaths
Updated on May 28, 2023 9:53 am

Global Statistics

All countries
689,396,069
Confirmed
Updated on May 28, 2023 9:53 am
All countries
621,122,739
Recovered
Updated on May 28, 2023 9:53 am
All countries
6,883,567
Deaths
Updated on May 28, 2023 9:53 am

Opposition Surges Ahead as Thai Voters Deliver Historic Turnout, Rejecting Military Elite

In a nationwide election on Sunday, Thai opposition parties emerged victorious, dealing a significant blow to the military-backed establishment governed by the 2014 coup. This outcome reflects years of mounting frustration among voters over the conservative cliques’ governance in the country.

The election witnessed an unprecedented surge in voter turnout, as citizens heeded the call for change. This sets the stage for a potentially dramatic showdown as parties now vie for coalition support to form a government under a junta-era constitution, which still grants the military considerable influence.

With over 99% of votes counted, the progressive Move Forward party is projected to secure 151 seats, placing them in the lead, followed by the populist Pheu Thai party with 141 seats.

This substantial lead places the opposition well ahead of the incumbent Prime Minister, Prayut Chan-o-cha, who led the 2014 coup.

In the early hours of Monday, Pita Limjaroenrat, the leader of the Move Forward party, who gained significant support from the youth through social media, expressed his preparedness to assume leadership.

“We believe that our beloved Thailand can be better, and change is possible if we start today … our dream and hope are simple and straightforward, and no matter if you would agree or disagree with me, I will be your prime minister. And no matter if you have voted for me or have not, I will serve you,” he said.

During a news conference held on Monday, Pita extended an invitation to Pheu Thai and other opposition parties, urging them to join forces in an alliance against Prayut. He revealed that four additional opposition parties have already agreed to “collaborate in forming a government” and emphasized the importance of respecting the outcome of the election. Pita, a 42-year-old Harvard graduate with a business background, affirmed that his party would continue with its plans to amend Thailand’s stringent lese majeste laws, a significant campaign promise despite the sensitive nature surrounding discussions about the royal family in Thailand.

Among his priorities, Pita expressed his commitment to supporting individuals who face imprisonment due to lese majeste charges, particularly in light of the massive youth-led protests that took place throughout the country in 2020.

These protests boldly called for royal reform, breaching established taboos. Pita cautioned that if the current laws remain unchanged, it would only exacerbate the strained relationship between the Thai people and the monarchy.

The election’s unofficial results constitute a scathing verdict against Thailand’s military-backed establishment and traditionalist forces, as they suffered a resounding defeat in the popular vote.

“It’s pretty remarkable,” said Susannah Patton, director of the Southeast Asia Program at the Lowy Institute.

“Even the fact that you have a party that was articulating those views around reform of the lese majeste law, considering where Thailand was at only five or so years ago… it does introduce a whole new level of unpredictability.”

The military has a head start

Despite the resounding rejection of military-backed parties by voters, the question of who will assume power remains uncertain. The military establishment has retained significant control over the leadership selection process, even in the face of a popular vote against them.

To elect the next prime minister and establish a government, a party or coalition must secure a majority in the combined 750-seat lower and upper houses of parliament. However, according to the junta-era constitution, Thailand’s 250-seat senate is entirely appointed by the military, indicating that it will likely vote in favor of a pro-military candidate.

In 2019, Prayut’s military-backed coalition won enough seats to secure his position as prime minister and form a government, despite Pheu Thai being the largest party.

During a press conference on Monday, the Election Commission of Thailand (ECT) announced that voter turnout reached a historic high of 75.2%. ECT Chairman Ittiporn Boonpracong described this figure as delightful, highlighting the determination of people to participate in the election.

Ittiporn explained that the vote count experienced a temporary delay as election officials prioritized accuracy, and one polling station had to suspend voting due to heavy rainfall.

Official results are expected to be available within five days, while it will take 60 days for the winners to receive the endorsement, according to Ittiporn.

Unofficial results as of 4 a.m. local time indicated that the Bhumjai Thai party was projected to secure third position with 71 seats, while Prayut’s United Thai Nation party was on track to win 35 seats.

The progressive party delivers a crushing blow

In Sunday’s election, the prominent political force Pheu Thai, which has been the leading populist party in Thai politics for two decades and enjoyed favorable poll ratings leading up to the ballot, faced off against parties supported by the influential conservative establishment. Historically, this establishment has backed candidates associated with the military, monarchy, and ruling elites.

Pheu Thai is affiliated with the wealthy Shinawatra family, known as a political dynasty led by former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. One of the prime ministerial candidates for Pheu Thai in this election was Thaksin’s daughter, 36-year-old Paetongtarn.

“We must respect the voice of the people. Whoever emerges as the winner in the election should have the initial right to form the government,” Paetongtarn stated during a press conference on Sunday, addressing reporters.

But this year also saw the emergence of the Move Forward party as an electrifying new political force. Its campaign included a radical national reform agenda, pledging structural changes to the military, the economy, the decentralization of power, and even reforms to the previously untouchable monarchy.

It proved hugely popular among Thailand’s young people – including the more than 3 million first-time voters – who felt they had been forgotten through almost a decade of military-led or backed rule.

The election was the first since youth-led mass pro-democracy protests in 2020 demanded democratic and military reforms, constitutional change, and – most shockingly for Thailand – to curb the powers of the monarchy.

It was also only the second since the military coup in 2014, in which a democratically elected government by Yingluck Shinawatra was toppled by Prayut who then installed himself as prime minister.

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