Thailand’s voters deliver landslide victory for the opposition

Thai voters sent a strong message to the military-backed government on Sunday, asserting that they lack the popular support needed to govern.

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Move Forward leader Pita Limjaroenrat

On Monday, Thailand’s two primary opposition parties reached an agreement to form a coalition government after decisively defeating their military-backed rivals in the weekend’s election. The military-aligned parties had held control over the government for almost ten years.

The progressive Move Forward Party, known for its reformist agenda and substantial youth following, secured the highest number of seats and the largest share of the popular vote. Pheu Thai, a long-standing populist opposition party in Thailand for the past two decades, came in second.

Their combined success dealt a severe blow to the conservative military-backed establishment, that had often toppled democratically elected governments through coups. Over the past two decades, Thai voters consistently supported political opponents of the military whenever given the opportunity to vote. The high-turnout election on Sunday continued this trend.

However, despite the resounding victory, the identity of the next leader remains uncertain. This uncertainty stems from the fact that the military junta, which seized power in 2014, revised the constitution to retain significant influence over the selection of leaders, regardless of the popular vote.

Neither opposition party secured the outright majority of 376 seats required to form a government independently. They will need to negotiate and garner support from other parties to build a coalition capable of securing victory.

Move Forward’s 42-year-old leader, Pita Limjaroenrat, proposed an alliance comprising six parties, which would command a total of 309 seats. However, this falls short of the 376 seats required to ensure his election as prime minister.

However, this process is not without challenges. Navigating through the senate, one crucial factor is the influential voting bloc of the senate, which poses a challenge to any opposition party or coalition seeking to form a government. Under the constitution established during the junta era, Thailand’s unelected senate, comprising 250 seats, is entirely appointed by the military and has historically supported pro-military candidates.

Since a party needs a majority in both houses, totaling 750 seats, to appoint a prime minister, opposition parties must garner nearly three times as many votes in the lower house to successfully elect a leader and establish a government.

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