Thailand’s two pro-democracy opposition parties handed a landslide defeat to the outgoing army-backed government in legislative elections on Sunday, according to provisional results released by the election commission.
After a recount of 97% of polling stations, the Movement Forward Party (MFP) was ahead with 13.5 million votes, ahead of Pheu Thai (10.3 million votes). Prime Minister Prayuth Chan O Cha’s United Thai Nation party came third with 4.5 million votes.
The election campaign unfolded as a clash between a younger generation, yearning for change, and the conservative, monarchical ruling class, embodied by former army chief Chan O Cha, who seized power in a 2014 coup.
In a country where coups and juries often triumph at the ballot box, there are fears the military will try to cling to power, raising the prospect of another period of instability.
Billionaire ex-prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s party Pheu Thai, now led by his daughter, Patongtarn, urged voters to win a landslide, defying the threat of military intervention.
However, the state is headed for a period of political bargaining in which opposition parties will try to form a governing coalition.
The Election Commission is not expected to officially confirm the final number of seats won by each party for several weeks.
– positive energy –
The new prime minister will be chosen jointly by 500 elected representatives and 250 members of the Senate appointed by the Prayut junta, who favor the military.
In the disputed elections late in 2019, Prayut won the Senate’s endorsement to become prime minister at the head of a complex multi-party coalition.
After casting his vote in Bangkok, Patongtharn, the leading Phu Thai candidate, showed no signs of panic. “Today is going to be a good day. I feel very positive energy,” the 36-year-old candidate told reporters with a big smile.
These elections are the first since large youth-led pro-democracy protests in Bangkok in 2020, with demands to curb Thailand’s king’s power and spending, thus breaking a long-standing taboo on challenging the monarchy. Gave.
The demonstrations ground to a halt as restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic and dozens of leaders were arrested, but their energy has fueled growing support for the MFP, the most radical opposition.
Arriving in Bangkok to vote, MFP leader Pita Limjaroenrat, 42, said he expected a “historic turnout”.
“Today, the younger generation is concerned about their rights and will go to vote,” he told reporters.
While the MFP sought support from Millennials and Gen Z voters, who account for nearly half of the 52 million voters, Phieu Thai relied on its traditional base in the rural northeast, where voters were grateful for welfare policies implemented by former Prime Minister Thaksin Are. In the early 2000s.