BANGKOK, THAILAND — Thailand’s king opened parliament Monday following a shock election result in which the pro-democracy opposition trounced army-backed parties that have ruled the kingdom for nearly a decade.
The Move Forward Party (MFP) won the largest share of votes in the May 14 election but their radical platform, which includes a reformation of the strict royal defamation law, may see them struggle to form a coalition government.
Their eight-party coalition bloc, including the second-largest party Pheu Thai, remains short of the required majority in the lower house to surpass the non-elected Senate chamber and successfully nominate a prime minister.
The election was seen as a national rejection of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha, a former army chief who came to power in a 2014 coup.
King Maha Vajiralongkorn, accompanied by his wife Queen Suthida, reminded the rows of white-uniformed MPs of their duty to represent the people of Thailand.
“The progress of the nation will be up to your intellectual ability and your honesty,” he said in brief prepared remarks.
“If everyone realises this, the work will achieve success smoothly,” he said.
It was the first time the king has opened parliament in its new home, a gigantic structure on Bangkok’s riverside.
MFP and the first-runner up Pheu Thai Party agreed to nominate Mr. Wan Muhamad Noor Matha, a senior member of their coalition, as the next Speaker of the House of Representatives.
The decision was announced after a parliamentary vote at a joint press conference following the opening of parliament.
The First Deputy Speaker will be a member of MFP and the Second Deputy Speaker will be from the Pheu Thai Party.
The Speaker nominee, Mr Matha, is a 79-year-old veteran politician from the southern border province Yala and leader of the Prachachat Party.
Although there is no set timeline, the house speaker will select the date when MPs will vote for the prime minister.
MFP leader Pita Limjaroenrat, who swept his party to victory on a wave of reformist promises and grassroots activism, is the front-runner but he faces an investigation that could see him disqualified.
The election commission is investigating around 80 complaints about the conduct of the 14 May poll.
Pita also has to muster a majority across both houses to secure the prime minister’s job, including among the 250 members of the Senate who were handpicked by the last junta.
An unknown number of senators have already said they will not vote for him as prime minister, although Pita and his party say they are confident of securing the post.