Thailand’s two major pro-democracy opposition parties—Move Forward Party and Pheu Thai—won a landslide in national elections on Sunday. The result reflected Thai voters’ rejection of the military-backed government, which has dominated the political scene for nearly a decade.
According to a forecast on Monday, the Move Forward Party, whose reformist ideology grew in popularity among Thai youths, is projected to win 113 out of a total of 400 constituency seats. In addition, populist force Pheu Thai is projected to come in second with 112 seats. This exhibits a rebuke from Thais to allow the military-backed government’s continued rule.
The current military-backed government, spearheaded by current Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha who seized power in a military coup in 2014, is projected to win 25 constituency seats. A conservative who ran a nationalistic election campaign, Prayuth warned that the opposition parties’ proposed reforms would bring chaos. Nevertheless, the Move Forward Party, which campaigned with the agenda of abolishing Thailand’s conservative establishment, has been described as a “game changer” that is projected to win the largest share of the popular vote. It has pledged to make changes to Thailand’s military and economy, decentralize power, and reform the monarchy.
However, as posited by a political scientist in Bangkok, while the election “will be a crucial step for Thailand to return to democracy…[t]he path may not be smooth,” especially in a country where military coups have frequently trumped election results. Moreover, opposition parties or coalitions need to overcome the formidable voting bloc of the senate to form a government due to the rewriting of the constitution in 2014.
Under the new constitution, opposition parties are required to have virtually three times as many votes in the lower house to elect a prime minister and form a government. This difficulty was demonstrated in 2019 where the incumbent Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha’s party coalition had enough seats to elect him as prime minister as they won the senate votes, despite Pheu Thai being the largest party.