MFP candidate thanking supporters during the Monday drive-about in Bangkok (Photo: Terry Xu)

BANGKOK, THAILAND — Thailand should have a government that “reflects the will of the people”, regional poll observers said Wednesday, as the victorious opposition’s bid to take power faced resistance from junta-appointed senators.

The progressive Move Forward Party (MFP) emerged from Sunday’s election as the biggest party after voters emphatically rejected nearly a decade of military-backed rule.

Regional observers from the Asian Network for Free Elections (ANFREL) saluted the strong voter turnout of just over 75 per cent and said the poll was more transparent than the previous one in 2019.

“ANFREL hopes that this general election may result in a government that reflects the will of the people,” the group said in a report.

MFP claimed 152 seats with rival opposition outfit Pheu Thai second on 141 and the two sides will meet for coalition talks later Wednesday.

They are working on a six-party coalition that would give them more than 300 of the 500 lower house seats.

But to secure the prime minister’s job the coalition needs a majority across both houses — including the Senate, whose 250 members were handpicked by the previous junta.

MFP and its allies need 376 lower house votes to ensure senators could not block party leader Pita Limjaroenrat from becoming prime minister.

Some senators have already voiced opposition to Pita, rattled by his strong anti-establishment stance including plans to amend the kingdom’s tough lese-majeste laws.

“I will not accept Pita as a PM,” Senator Jadet Inswang said, raising concerns about lese-majeste reform.

Senator Kittisak Ratanawaraha also declined to support Pita.

“The PM candidate needs to love the nation, monarchy,” he said.

A senior Pheu Thai leader on Tuesday called on two mid-size conservative parties — Bhumjaithai and the Democrats — to help the coalition in the vote for prime minister.

The Bhumjaithai party, which was part of the outgoing coalition of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha, is shaping up as a potential kingmaker with its 70 lower house seats.

Military-linked parties could in theory try to form a minority government, relying on Senate support to get their choice of prime minister through, but with few lower house seats, it would find it difficult to govern.

ANFREL, which deployed 41 regional observers who visited 460 polling stations on election day in 51 provinces, said voting was “peaceful and orderly”.

The mission said that vote-buying was the most reported concern, though it did not give the number of cases.


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