In the aftermath of a general election dubbed by exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra as a “rigged” one that was tampered by “serious interference” from the junta, several pro-democracy political parties in Thailand have announced that they have enough seats, albeit unofficially, to form a majority coalition.
Bloomberg reported pro-Thaksin Pheu Thai party leader Sudarat Keyuraphan as saying on Wed (27 Mar) that seven anti-junta parties could form a coalition comprising 255 seats in the Thai National Assembly’s Lower House, which consists of 500 seats.
Sudarat, who is Pheu Thai’s candidate of choice for the Prime Minister post, said: “It’s clear that pro-democracy parties have a mandate from the people in this election”.
“Although right now numbers are still moving, we’re certain we will have at least 255 seats among ourselves. We declare that the democratic front who opposes military rule commands the majority in the House,” South China Morning Post quoted her as saying.
“We are trying to fulfil the people’s expectations as best we can. We want to support the constructive political culture even though the election is difficult because the rules support the junta’s prolonging of power.
“There have been a lot of vote buying, intervention of state influence and the counting of the votes is abnormal. It was a questionable election,” she added.
However, junta-linked Palang Pracharath Party argued that the Election Commission (EC) has yet to release the final results of the polls, adding that results in the popular vote thus far have shown that Thais are keen to re-elect royalist-backed military leader Prayuth Chan-Ocha for the premiership post, despite only winning a projected 97 constituency seats as announced by the Election Commission.
Pheu Thai, in contrast, managed to gain a projected 137 constituency seats as of the official count on Monday.
Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana, Palang Pracarath’s deputy spokesperson was quoted by Bloomberg as saying that “The party is confident that they will be able to gather enough support to form a government for sure”.
Final official results scheduled to be released in May, following King’s coronation; junta-appointed Senate a cause for concern in joint voting process to determine next PM
A joint vote by the Lower House and the Senate, which will take place some time between the end of May and the beginning of June after King Maha Vajiralongkorn’s coronation, will determine who will become Thailand’s new Prime Minister.
The Upper House, with a capacity of 250, however, is currently a major source of concern due to the junta’s involvement in the appointment of Senators.
Leader of Prachachart Party Wan Muhamad Noor Matha in particular is apprehensive about the role of the Senate.
Bloomberg reported him as saying: “The Senate can’t get involved in day-to-day politics, so a minority government won’t work and will be unstable, destroying our economy.
“If you go ahead with a minority government, our stock market could collapse. Who would want to invest?”
“We will join with other parties to prevent the junta’s extension of power as much as we can”: Future Forward leader Thanathorn Jungrungreangkit
CNN reported Future Forward Party leader Thanathorn Jungrungreangkit as saying that the party “will join with other parties to prevent the junta’s extension of power as much as we can”.
“It might be difficult and we will have to face the Senate, but we’ll work together … We invite other parties to join and create a democratic government, even as an opposition.
“We maintain that the PM must come from the party with the highest voting scores and the Future Forward supports Sudarat as she is the most suitable candidate,” SCMP quoted him as saying.
Future Forward, a party that is gaining traction among young Thais, is predicted to become the third largest party, according to CNN.
Thanathorn added that the EC should release the rejected votes from each polling station for the purpose of scrutiny.
Almost two million votes were rejected during the vote count process as “bad ballots”, a move heavily criticised by election watchdogs.
A suspicious delay was also observed during the voting count process.
Thaksin, in his opinion article for The New York Times on Mon (25 Mar), was shocked by the delay in the voting count.
“The election commission stopped releasing results on Sunday night and announced that it would postpone delivering them until Monday afternoon,” he wrote.
“I don’t think there has ever been such a delay in Thailand’s modern history. The junta clearly is afraid.”
CNN quoted Open Forum for Democracy Foundation as saying that the election was “not free and fair”, while The Asian Network for Free Elections argued that the election process “displays fundamental democratic shortcomings”.
It is “impossible not to suspect serious interference”; junta “rewrites” Thailand’s Constitution “often”: Exiled former PM Thaksin Shinawatra
In his NYT write-up, Thaksin expressed his shock at the extent to which the junta in Thailand “has gone to manipulate the general election on Sunday”, which involved the disqualification of a “suspiciously large number of ballots”.
“There also were reports that some ballots, although marked improperly, were counted as votes for Palang Pracharat, the military’s proxy party.
“The election commission has the authority to issue penalties known as red cards to candidates for wrongdoing. It deserves one itself,” he argued.
Thaksin highlighted how problems in the electoral process have been exacerbated by the EC, which was appointed by the junta, as the Commission “has interfered with the work of what are supposed to be independent agencies and institutions”.
“Thailand can’t seem to change its outdated criminal laws or even car-registration regulations, but it rewrites its Constitution often,” he observed.
“Election rules were revised to weaken large parties,” noted Thaksin, adding: “Double standards were applied when it came to determining who could run for the position of prime minister or who counts as a “state official.”
“Political opponents,” wrote Thaksin, “have been treated as enemies”.
He argued that the junta “will find a way to stay in charge”, regardless whether the pro-democracy parties are able to form a majority coalition.
“They have no shame, and they want to be in power no matter what,” he charged.
However, Thaksin warned that while “Palang Pracharat may be able to select the next prime minister without controlling a majority in the House of Representatives”, the party “will be heading a very unstable government” in the absence of a majority.
“None of what I am saying is about one party or another winning or losing. It’s about Thailand not losing,” he stressed.
“Yet if neither the rules of the game nor the referees are fair, the outcome will not be respected by Thai people or internationally.
“More than anything, Thailand should have a government that reflects the will of the people, not the will of the junta.
“This is a terrible, and sad, moment for my country,” lamented Thaksin.
At the start of his Good Monday programme on Mon (25 Mar), Bangkok Post quoted Thaksin as saying that “The last gift that God can give you is hope”.
He added: “I am worried about Thailand and about all Thais.”