A political party linked to exiled tycoon Thaksin Shinawatra claimed victory in Thailand’s election and said it would seek to form a government, challenging a military-backed group that led in initial vote counts.
Pheu Thai led with 138 of 350 constituency seats in an initial tally, followed by the military-backed Palang Pracharath party with 96 seats, according to
the Election Commission. The count, which didn’t include another 150 party-list seats, showed that both major parties would need to form a coalition to take power in the 500-member lower house of parliament.
“We’ll try to form a government coalition right away because that’s how people voted,” Sudarat Keyuraphan, Pheu Thai’s candidate for prime minister, told reporters on Monday, adding that the army-appointed Senate should follow the wishes of voters. “We stood by our position that we won’t support the continuation of the military regime.”
The comments indicate a showdown is emerging to form a government between pro-democracy forces and Thailand’s royalist and military elites, who have repeatedly sought to prevent Thaksin and his allies from taking power over the past two decades.
Previous confrontations have led to instability, gridlock, deadly street protests and coups.
The military-backed Palang Pracharath has also said it would seek to form a government. It won 7.7 million votes with 94 percent counted with Pheu Thai second at 7.23 million votes, according to unofficial results posted on the Election Commission’s Facebook page. The Election Commission announced the winners of 350 constituencies at 4 pm, after several delays in giving seat totals. It said that initial vote counts were accurate even though its computers were attacked. Official results won’t be known until May 9, several days after the coronation ceremony for King Maha Vajiralongkorn.
Investors initially appeared sanguine about the election results, with Thailand’s SET Index falling less than other Asian benchmarks amid a global sell-off triggered by economic growth concerns.
The results put junta chief Prayuth Chan-Ocha in position to stay in power, as Thailand’s election rules effectively tilt the playing field in favour of the military. The 250-member Senate appointed by the junta also gets a vote for prime minister, and it’s likely to back Prayuth.
Either way, any coalition is likely to be weak and unwieldy, making it difficult to pass legislation in the lower house.
Both Pheu Thai and Prayuth would need to rely on a range of smaller regional parties to push through key policies.
While Sudarat didn’t mention any potential coalition partners, Pheu Thai would likely align with Future Forward, a new pro-democracy party that performed well in its first election.
Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, the 40-year-old scion of a tycoon family who heads the party, questioned the credibility of the election and said the next administration is likely to be unstable. “There might be another election, there might be another military intervention,” Thanathorn said. “Everything is still on the table.”
Sunday’s election followed one of the longest periods of military rule in Thailand, which has a history of elections followed by coups since the end of absolute monarchy in 1932.