Severe defeat of the military in power during the legislative elections in Thailand

In Thailand, the opposition is smiling. The Thais have indeed inflicted a severe defeat on the military in power for almost a decade, during the legislative elections on Sunday which propelled the two pro-democracy opposition parties to the lead.

The Move Forward party, whose progressive rhetoric echoes the massive protests of 2020 calling for a sweeping overhaul of the monarchy, is set to become the main force in the next parliament. However, from the reform of the harsh law on the crime of lèse-majesté to the end of compulsory conscription, his program deemed radical may create new tensions with the military-royalist elite.

Rejection of the outgoing Prime Minister

Millions of voters went to the polls for an election marked by the rejection of outgoing Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha, who came to power after a coup in 2014, then legitimized in 2019 by controversial elections. Based on the counting of the ballots in 97% of the polling stations, Move Forward comes first, with more than 13.5 million votes (out of 52 million voters).

Behind, the opposition Pheu Thai party of Paetongtarn Shinawatra, the daughter of former Prime Minister in exile Thaksin Shinawatra, won 10.3 million votes. Ex-general Prayut Chan-O-Cha collected 4.5 million votes, under the banner of the United Thai Nation (UTN) party, in third position.

However, the final official results are not expected for several weeks. In the night from Sunday to Monday, the electoral commission gives Move Forward (113 deputies) a slight lead over Pheu Thai (112), out of the 400 constituencies at stake. The 100 other deputies are elected proportionally.

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Oppositions ready to “work together”

At first glance, Move Forward signs a resounding victory. The party associated with the color orange claims to be the standard bearer of youth. Its leader, Pita Limjaroenrat, estimated that his movement would win 160 seats, a surprise result.

A government agreement with Pheu Thai “is on the table”, confirmed the young candidate, 42 years old. “We can work together,” replied the star candidate of Pheu Thai, Paetongtarn Shinawatra, 36 years old. “But we are waiting for the official results”, continued the one who called for an “electoral tidal wave” to gain power, nine years after the putsch which overthrew Yingluck Shinawatra, her aunt.

The electoral system concocted by the army forced Move Forward and Pheu Thai to win a large majority in parliament or to form a coalition. Indeed, the opposition needs 376 seats out of the 500 in the Assembly to counterbalance the influence of the 250 senators appointed by the army. It is enough for the pro-army camp of 126 deputies to ensure a majority in the vote of the Prime Minister, chosen by the two chambers.

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