Thai Election: The wait continues as formation of government remains uncertain

Thai Election: The wait continues as formation of government remains uncertain
By Linda Khoo 

BANGKOK, March 29 (NNN-BERNAMA) — More than 38.2 million Thais have exercised their rights in the country’s long-awaited General Election on Sunday but the pathway to government formation remains uncertain following the inconclusive results. 

It is a waiting game for Thais to know who will form the next government and the next prime minister as Thailand’s Election Commission said it would only announce the final official results by May 9.

Political pundits said anything could happen between now as there were more than 180 complaints filed for investigation and that could result in changes to seat allocations if some members of parliament were disqualified and parties dissolved.

After four days, the EC announced on Thursday, the fully-counted votes for each constituency in the country’s first election after the 2014 military coup. However, the media discovered numerous inconsistent numbers followed by updated voting figures.

The military-backed Palang Pracharath Party, which wants Prime Minister General Prayuth Chan-o-cha to remain in power, claimed the right to form a government based on its popular vote with 8.4 million ballots.

Pheu Thai, a party linked to self-exiled former leader Thaksin Shinawatra and its six allies have also claimed to have “at least 255 seats” in the 500-strong House of Representatives to form a government.

However, in reality, both political camps are struggling to form the next Thai government as the Election Commission said the official results would only be announced by May 9, but most parties could already estimate their rough share of seats from the unofficial total votes cast. 

If the opposition democratic front led by Pheu Thai and its allies could form the next government, it will  however struggle to elect a prime minister as the country’s parliamentary rules state that the 250 Senate members appointed by the junta will join the 500 elected members of parliament in a vote for prime minister.

By this, a party needs to get the support of 376 House members to secure the prime minister’s post.

Political observers say the Pheu Thai-led alliance cannot form a strong coalition as they need the magic number of 376 to vote for prime minister, while Palang Pracharath and its allies have to win only 126 seats in the House.

Therefore, Democrat Party which is fourth in the number of seats won and Bhumjaithai, which campaigned on a ticket of marijuana legalisation and coming out fifth, are seen as the king-makers in the formation of a new government. However, both are keeping their choice under wraps.

The oldest party in Thailand, Democrat is estimated to have won 55 seats (33 constituency seats and estimated 22 party-list seats) while Bhumjaithai led by Anutin Charnvirakul, 52 seats ( 39 constituency seats and estimated 13 party-list seats).

Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva has made it clear on several occasions that the party would never join hands with Pheu Thai. However, Democrat suffered a devastating loss in the Sunday polls, especially to Future Forward Party and Palang Pracharath.

Due to its abysmal performance, Abhisit announced his resignation. So will the Democrat, without Abhisit,  join hands with Pheu Thai?

Thammasat University vice-rector Prinya Thaewanarumitku said a Pheu Thai-led alliance would not only need Bhumjaithai but also Democrat to form a strong coalition to push through key policies in parliament.

He said Anutin could be a dark horse prime minister candidate to put a stop to all the political uncertainties in the country.

“If Pheu Thai offers Anutin to be prime minister, that could be the best choice to form a strong coalition,” he told Bernama here.

The legal scholar specialising in public law said Pheu Thai and its allies needed more seats to prevent Prayuth from remaining in power.

“However, if Prayuth is elected as prime minister he will survive, especially when it comes to amending the constitution and when a motion of no-confidence is tabled, as he will get support from the lower house as well as the (250 handpicked) Senators,” he said.

For Pheu Thai, Sudarat Keyuraphan is the main prime ministerial candidate. However, English daily, Bangkok Post reported that Future Forward Party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit revealed that Pheu Thai offered to nominate him for the prime minister post if the party’s own candidates fail to get into parliament following the seating formula for party-list seats, where it will not get any party-list seats.

Meanwhile, associate professor of political science at Chulalongkorn University, Siripan Nogsuan Sawasdee said Prayuth would remain as prime minister of Thailand. “However, the stability of the country is another question,” she added.

Siripan who specialises in government, Southeast Asia and rule of law, said Palang Pracharath might not have the majority to form a government (more than 250 constituency seats) unless the ‘colour cards’ were doing the magic for them.

“However, under the constitution, choosing a prime minister will come first. They only need 200 constituency seats plus the 250 Senators to choose the next prime minister. Based on this scenario, more likely Prayuth will still be prime minister.

“My conclusion is, the Democrat will be the game changer and all parties aligned to Pheu Thai should stay united,” she said.


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